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Does Greyhawk Reflect Its Creators?

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Adept Greytalker

Joined: Apr 26, 2002
Posts: 370
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Fri Jul 12, 2019 7:57 pm    Post subject: Does Greyhawk Reflect Its Creators? Reply with quote

Other D&D campaign settings have reflected some of the preferences or beliefs of their creators. The multiple conspiracies and gambit pileups in Forgotten Realms apparently mirror the kinds of plots Ed Greenwood enjoys running in his home games. The theology and backstory of Dragonlance apparently borrow a lot from Tracy Hickman's own beliefs.

Is there anything in Greyhawk that potentially reflects the preferences or beliefs of Gary Gygax or anybody else who worked on it?

I never knew Gygax as well as many of the other posters here, so the best I can suggest is that the structure of many of Greyhawk's modules and materials reflects what I'm assuming is Gygax's preferences for the 'episodic' stories and plots of Howard (and presumably Lieber and Vance?) over the sweeping, world-saving epics of Tolkien. Most of the iconic Greyhawk modules occur in isolation from each other, with most links between them being implicit. You could tie them together as an adventure path, but that would speak more to your DM's skills than it would to the original intent of the modules. Joe Bloch has discussed some ideas on his blog, although it wasn't without its pitfalls.

Reading about Gygax's supposed dislike of Tolkien, I wonder whether any 'dislike' is really just a preference for that more episodic style of storytelling over the long, dramatic epic. I seem to recall reading that Gygax preferred The Hobbit to LOTR, perhaps because it was a 'done in one' story. Note that R.E. Howard described writing the Conan stories as if Conan was recounting different adventures that occurred to him over the years, rather than writing one long, epic story.

Thoughts? What about other creators?
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Adept Greytalker

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 13, 2019 7:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cruel Summer Lord,

I certainly did not know Gary, but from what I understand, he was creating a backdrop for his wargaming ideas when he developed Greyhawk, which is why his elements of it are low on fine detail, but more geo/strategic detail as presented in the original box set, e.g. army size and composition, primary resources, etc. Also, the division of the Flanaess primarily into states facilitates interstate competition compared to the last time I looked at Forgotten Realms when there were just vast empty ares.

Just my impression...
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CF Admin

Joined: Oct 14, 2003
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 14, 2019 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think a great foundation was laid by it's creators and magnificently expanded upon by an injection of other talents.

Since you brought up Conan, I will comment that in my opinion Conan is an absolutely awesome creation of Howard's that was well treated by later authors, namely Robert Jordan (before his Wheel fame.)

Greyhawk too, has greatly benefited by having great talent pick up and accentuate the content available at their respective times. Notably Sargent, but definitely many others. I was blown away by WGR4 The Marklands and can only wish Ivid the Undying would have seen print.
Kneel before me, or you shall be KNELT!
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Joined: Feb 26, 2004
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wonderful post CSL!

I agree with Tarelton on the wargaming backdrop influence. It's interesting that some of the best books in 2E onward are not adventures like Abysslin mentions, but rather setting source material. Probably not until Paizo did Greyhawk get it's adventure legs back. (not including LG)
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 6:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The nature of Gygax's modules is more a reflection of the hobby at the time than his personal preferences. The evolution of D&D was closer to wargaming then. "Adventure paths" are a very modern concept. I wish I could remember the source, but, as recently as 2e, a TSR splatbook explicitly discouraged DM's from railroading players through a preconceived, career-spanning plot/novel (contrary to the Dragonlance model).

Neither would I call Gygax's modules episodic -- he wrote for his players. He expanded dungeons overnight to cater to them. When they got bored, he took them to Dungeon Land. If they loved the Wild West, or Barsoom, or spaceships, or King Kong, he took them there. If they wrecked havoc and freed demons, they ran for their lives. If they proved themselves heroes, they became Lords and built strongholds. He allowed his players to make meaningful changes to the world and direct the action.

Also remember half of this scenarios (G1-3, S1) were written for one-shot convention play, so that dictated a lot. And B2 and T1 were introductory scenarios (one for mass-market rules, one for new players in his campaign).

Bigger plots emerged as the hobby evolved -- Iggwilvs schemes, the transport device in Maure Castle, etc. -- then his window closed.

Here's some values and beliefs I see in Gary's work: cheerfulness, humor, spontaneity, focus on individual freedom and decision making, collaboration (Kuntz, Mentzer, Sutherland, Lakofka, Arneson, etc).
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