Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A Line in the Sand for One of the Oldest Settings in D&D

On December 19. 2017 Dungeons & Dragons Creative Director, Mike Mearls, did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit which I found an interesting read. Among the many questions he was asked was one about his favorite setting. Mike answered, "I'd love to tackle Greyhawk, but I'd want to approach it from the original [Gary] Gygax material, ignoring most everything post-1983 (unless he was the author)."

That's an interesting way to go in re-imagining the setting as it both eliminates a rather large swath of weak material but also some beloved adventures that came after Gary Gygax was forced out of TSR. Kick out the Greyhawk Wars, World of Greyhawk, all the Carl Sargent stuff, all the Living Greyhawk material, and all the stuff published by Wizards of the Coast throughout the tail end of Second Edition and all of Third Edition. Essentially it would reset the world at the Greyhawk Boxed set with the whole setting on a tenuous peace with armies posturing and occasionally raiding across the boarders but without the outright war that characterized the setting throughout the majority of its published existence. 

I'm conflicted about this proposed reset. On the one hand I hate some of the changes that came to the setting after the Greyhawk Boxed Set and really hate the way that the world was reshaped by the Greyhawk Wars; but on the other hand I really love some of the Carl Sargent stuff (seriously, Sargent rocks and to completely lose his influence from the setting would really be a bit difficult for me). Still, at this point the Greyhawk setting has been largely neglected and pushed to the side so often that just to have some light from someone who loves it would be . . . amazing. 

Rary the Traitor by Ben Wootten

Listen, as a setting the World of Greyhawk is just a few short years away from being a forgotten memory that used to be a place played in back when the game first started. It's a relic waiting to be discarded. That needs to change before it gets forgotten and left to those few of us still waving our flag out here on the boarders of ignoble oblivion.

Greyhawk deserves to have a new generation of players care about it the way that I do after reading Carl Sargent. It needs to have authors that love the setting exploring it and pushing the game in a way that the Forgotten Realms simply can't compete with anymore. It needs to have boarder wars and devils walking the face of Oerth again. It needs to be a place where players go when they've gotten over the triteness of Faerun and are looking for somewhere new to explore where the canon warriors haven't entrenched themselves on every hill and loudly proclaim, "That's not how it goes in the books!"

There is so much potential in Greyhawk for new players. It's the land where the greatest adventures are set and where the best game designers made bold choices. It's a place where the great experiments of D&D were often first tested and where many of the most beloved spells, items, devils, gods, and non-player characters were first pushed out in the world. It can be that place again, and if the way we get it there is to let go of things like Sargent and the post Gygax material, then we should. 

Come on Mearls. Make us proud and do something breathtaking with the setting. 

25 comments:

  1. I personally go back to the original timeline for my campaigns though I too like Sargent era material. Gygax's Greyhawk metastory was intended to be war. GH Wars was just a haphazard handling of that affair that was largely undone when Greyhawk returned under Roger Moore. For a Greyhawk reset you can still use much of Sargent's original sourcebook material and not have a single mention of the wars.

    I too fear that Wizards procrastination and misusing Greyhawk is forcing the setting to be written out of history (head story guy Chris Perkins is supposed to be a Greyhawk fan too). This is why I have laboriously educated the internet on Greyhawk lore for the last 10+ years and will continue to do so.

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    1. And I think you're awesome for it!

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    2. Hear, hear! You and your efforts are most appreciated, Mort!

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    3. I get doubly excited when I see others posting on Greyhawk. It's a signal boost we all need.

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    4. Man, I'm not even kidding when I say that I feel the same way. Seeing people like you and Joseph putting out great content for the setting always gets my motor running!

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    5. Chiming in to concur. Kudos to those who keep the Oerthian embers from dying out!

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    6. Keep on chiming in Michael! You're always welcome to join the conversation here!

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  2. Would love to see some new material out there for the newer generation that hasn't even heard of Greyhawk *sigh*.
    At this point though I'm not holding my breath anymore, since WotC seems intent on letting it die. A shame really.
    FWIW my default timeline is the Folio, but at this point I have pulled in material from all over the place, just rewind the clock on it, is all.

    Cheers to all the Greyhawk fans out there.

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  3. To be truthful, I already ignore everything post Gygax.

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    1. It's the best way for all fans to stay on equal footing. If everyone comes in at ground floor, more can be involved in its eventual growth without the FR feeling of straying from what's already published. Everyone can flesh out the skeleton!

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  4. I am 50yo and run an ongoing campaign in Greyhawk for my kids. They are involved with multiple adventures that actually will tie together in a mega-arc campaign in a couple of years. I use the Greyhawk Folio setting with details from post-GHwars maps published by Anna B. Meyer. From my high school days, our original campaign had conquered the Pomarj and re-cast it as tolerant, cosmopolitan land with a large and powerful standing army. I ret-conned the conquest to an invasion with that same goal in mind. It provides options for set piece battles as well as many small party adventures. The invasion also causes an unsettling that forces humanoids up the Wild Coast and a general turmoil around Woolly Bay. I keep can keep Greyhawk alive in my family for another generation.

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    1. I so want to see your notebook. I love reading adventure write ups.

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  5. Greyhawk is still the only setting I DM in. I have been forced -- upon occasion -- to PLAY in Faerun, with someone else as the DM, but my setting is always Greyhawk.

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    1. Which begs the question: did you play as a displaced Greyhawk character pissed off at this foreign land?

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  6. Greyhawk has been my go-to setting since I started playing and remains so to this day. Sure, there are other settings I like for their quirks like Dragonlance, Paizo's Golorian, Ravenloft, and Dark Sun. What always brings me back to Greyhawk is that even to this day with all the development in Dungeon and Dragon magazines is that it's still very barebones. So much so that only 1 major continent has been full mapped and explored.

    Greyhawk supplied much of the flavour that other settings culled to enhance their appeal. Powerful magic and wizards of the past - check, Death knights -argueable but check, Acererak, many gods were borrowed or took similar paths -check, artifacts and magic items to numerous to list (though I have in the past, lol)-check. Essentially, it ALL started here. Other settings have borrowed liberally from it, yet it remains the most under-developed and full of promise. I look forward to more material (whether I am involved or not). =)

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  7. So were do I get started with Greyhawk? I came on in 2nd edition playing Forgotten Realms and then had a long break coming back with 5th edition where everything published is Forgotten Realms. Any read this first recommendations?

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    1. where! where! Need an edit button so I don't look like an idiot.

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    2. What are you into? Like what sort of things really get you excited to explore?

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    3. I would get a copy of the original gold box or folio at a reasonable price for the background info, and then I would get a copy of Anna B Meyer's maps because of the level of detail present on them . The info on the maps should lead you to various sources for threshing things out. I would also suggested starting a campaign with one of the classic modules, like the A series or T series, to get the players into the action.

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    4. The Provost of VelunaJanuary 18, 2018 at 1:24 AM

      I would also encourage you to go look at Dragon Magazine in the mid 2000s during the 3.x period where several extremely interesting articles on Greyhawk personalities, areas and events were published and go from there. Ton of great stuff in there, like the fact Warduke is now a Horned Society Hierarch, etc. Just interesting stuff for afficionados.

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