Friday, January 28, 2005


Tomorrow night we are playing AD&D. Good ol' fashioned Greyhawk campaign! a few years ago I ran across an article in praise of Greyhawk as a campaign world. I thought I would post it here since all references to it in a recent 'Google" search came up with dead links. so here it is.

What Makes Greyhawk Greyt?

By Randy Richards

1) Nostalgia
The World of Greyhawk is the first published role-playing world. Many AD&D fans have been playing in Greyhawk since its inception in 1975, as "Supplement I: Greyhawk". When you get used to something, you begin to desire it more. Original Greyhawk patrons are now in their 30's and 40's.

2) PCs As Heroes
The PC's are the heroes of the adventures and campaigns, not ultra-godlike NPCs who have powers the PCs can't even possess. Greyhawk is the ultimate role-playing world. Greyhawk's heroes seldom kill the bad guys, only temporarily put a crimp in his or her plans. Success brings the PCs notoriety, and NPC heroes exist to recognize these accomplishments, but they will have likely played little role in the victory itself. The major events in recent Flanaess history are all presented in such a way that the PCs may play a role, perhaps even a leading one. PCs fought the Greyhawk Wars, defeated Zuggtmoy and the her Temple of Elemental Evil, Iggwilv's daughter Drelnza, the Giants and Drow in league with Lolth, and could have helped Iuz defeat Vecna.

3) Medium Fantasy
The World of Greyhawk is what might be called a "medium" fantasy setting. Masque of the Red Death is a low fantasy setting; the Forgotten Realms is a high fantasy setting, and the World of Greyhawk falls in the middle. The structure of the world is grounded more in reality than a heavy reliance upon powerful magic and encumbering PCs with magical items. This emphasizes role-playing over roll-playing, and helps prevent the "Monty Haul" campaign blight without denigrating magic overall.

4) Neutrality
While there are good vs. evil conflicts, Greyhawk has historically been anchored deep in active, almost militant, neutrality. A prime example of this is the Circle of Eight, but the Flanaess druids certainly deserve some credit. Conflicts may also include good vs. good, good vs. neutral, evil vs. neutral, or evil vs. evil. The world is not black and white, but a firm shade of grey.

5) Personified Adversaries
The complexity of a sentient mind are too often diluted by the simplistic nine alignments. Adversaries in Greyhawk have both desirable and undesirable traits at the same time making the line between god and evil seem a bit blurred.

IUZ is a diabolical overlord who controls a vast realm, and who has caused many problems over decades and decades. A fiendish cambion born of Iggwilv and Graz'zt, he was imprisoned by Zagyg for years, then set free to wreak havoc upon the Flanaess for even more years to come. He became a demi-god, and a force to terrorize and threaten even the mightiest of parties for many a campaign.

THE SCARLET BROTHERHOOD was founded in 5091 SD to prevent the "dilution of Suel virtues". As a result, the most determined Suel nobility who escaped the Rain of Colorless Fire gravitated toward the Tilvanot Peninsula. The Brotherhood seeks to re-establish the glories of the ancient Suloise society: slaveholding, assassination, ritual torture, and employment of goblinoid mercenaries. Their methods of conquest usually involve assassination, duplicity, and mutants. In contrast, they also revere the highest magical and materials arts.
In the "Fate of Istus" module, we discover the Scarlet Brotherhood learned its monk-style fighting abilities from Oriental Kara-Tur natives (they came through a portal). They are responsible for giving the Scarlet Brotherhood one of its unique traits. Sadly, monks were eliminated in this adventure, blanding the Brotherhood mystique a bit.

RARY seeks order on his own terms. Rary was a member of the Circle of Eight who killed several of his colleagues, namely Tenser and Otiluke. He is now living in exile with Lord Robilar, his military advisor, in the Bright Desert. Rary is currently examing the remnants of the Flan Empire of Sulm, and attempting to obtain a cursed artifact the "Scorpion Crown" from Shattados. His future plans are presently unclear.

6) Celebrity Magic
Magic of the Flanaess is personalized. Take a gander at the magic items, spells, and artifacts even in the "Core Rules" Dungeon Masters Guide. AD&D players are familiar with the Quiver of Ehlonna, Boccob's Blessed Book,
Murlynd's Spoon, Heward's Handy Haversack, Bigby's Crushing Hand, or Tenser's Floating Disc? The World of Greyhawk has its share of famous artifacts too. The Hand and Eye of Vecna, the once lich, now demi-god, are first to come to mind, as is the Sword of Kas (Kas being Vecna's treacherous friend turned nemesis). The Rod of Many Parts first appeared as part of that setting, as well as Baba Yaga's Dancing Hut, both of which are now generic AD&D modules. Let us also not forget Heward's Mystical Organ, the Mace of Cuthbert, Wand of Orcus (recently appearing in the Dead Gods product), glowing ruby Rod of Asmodeus, and the acid secreting wavy-bladed Sword of Graz'zt. All of these personages originate from the World of Greyhawk. Magic in Greyhawk has a documented history.

7) Unexplored Territory
The Flanaess, and in Oerth as a whole, unlike so many other worlds is still relatively unexplored. The Flanaess residents are only just now uncovering the remnants of the old empires. Like the Aztec-styled Olman Empire, remnants of the Aerdi Empire, and the Flan. The Flan Empire of Sulm produced the Bright Desert, and is currently being explored by Rary. The Suel Empire became the Sea of Dust after the Rain of Colorless Fire.... difficult to reach ruins are now being explored there, as well as easier to reach ones in the migrated eastern lands. The Baklunish Empire has few ruins since most buildings were destroyed by the Invoked Devastation, however, some Bakluni relics like Tovag Baragu still remain, as do the buildings of the Baklarran dwarves.
On the fold-out Darlene map we notice Hepmonaland, Land of Black Ice, Amedio Jungle, and the Sea of Dust as unknown quantities. Oerth has other areas besides the Flanaess, as sketched by quasi-deity Heward in Dragon Annual #1. The map contains labels such as the Celestial Imperium, Empire of Lynn, Hyperboria, Erypt, Polaria, Fireland, Tharquish Empire, Nippon Dominion, Orcreich, Dragons Island, Kingdoms of the Marches, and Elven Lands among others. And don't forget Greyspace with Luna, Celene, the Grinder and more. We've only touched the surface of Greyhawk!

8) Plots Within Plots
Wheels within wheels. Subplots with even more acute subplots. As demonstrated by early modules, and the later Falcon trilogy, we see a plot avocado peeled away to reveal even deeper layers of plots. In the center we find an unexpected enemy who can be thwarted by the PCs.

9) Linked History
Greyhawk's history is a delicately part of the setting that links the races, monsters, countries, and gods into a complex whole. Greyhawk products build on this history and incorporate it, but leave enough loose threads to allow for further development by the DM. This is a special Greyhawk quality.

10) No Gunpowder
Gunpowder does not work on the planet Oerth, although it does work in other areas of Greyspace. The only published exception to this rule is the quasi-deity Murlynd (played originally by Don Kay). There has been talk of allowing priests of this demi-deity to be allowed to use them.

11) Fan Support
The World of Greyhawk was discontinued and then brought back into the mainstream by fan support. This fact alone speaks volumes on its popularity and appeal to the average gamer.