In a way, it can be pretty much anytime you want it to be. Gygax's fiction diverged pretty radically from TSR's after he was ousted from the company, so his timeline bears little resemblance to the "official" timeline.
That said, there are certain markers that might help you place the events in the books. For example, we know that Nerof Gasgal is mayor of Greyhawk at the time, and we can assume that the Greyhawk Wars haven't started yet, at least at the beginning of Gygax's series. However, there is a great deal of fighting on Oerth described in the novels, so if you want to you can assume that Gygax is referring to the Greyhawk Wars - you'll have to stretch a bit to do that, but it can be done.
If we take these (and various other) markers into account, you could easily place the entrapment of Lord Entropy and Tharizdun sometime in the late 580s or perhaps the early 590s. IMC I've decided to place those events during the late 590s, and I keep "my" WoG intact by ruling that the timeline split when Gord was born, something that was done retroactively by Chronos as part of creating Tharizdun's new prison. Thus,"somewhere" there's a sort of Greyhawk pocket plane containing Tharizdun and Entropy, while the "real" world of Greyhawk goes on without them. However, I've also ruled that Tharizdun has figured out what happened and is still seeking release from his imprisonment. In this way I can keep the threat of his release as one of the ongoing themes of the campaign while simultaneously justifying the various different methods of releasing him described in Greyhawk literature.
I don't know if anyone's ever done a close study of how much time elapses during the Gord saga. The wars depicted in Artifact of Evil are probably in the same general period as TSR's later Greyhawk Wars, with some of the same events (the conquest of the Horned Society by Iuz, for example, which happened in 582 in canon). I think they begin their expedition to the Sea of Dust (described in Sea of Death) almost immediately after that book, after a brief period in the Catlord's realm, then spend "perhaps a year or two" wandering around the southern seas between Sea of Death and Come Endless Darkness. I don't think any significant time passes between Come Endless Darkness and Dance of Demons, when the aforementioned imprisonment of Master Entropy and Tharizdun happens. Gord is thirty years old in that book (maybe the only time his age is given in the saga, though I'd guess he was 15 or younger in the beginning of Saga of Old City), and the Great Kingdom is in a state of civil war, with the See of Medegia, North Province, and South Province all trying to overthrow Ivid V, and there's unrest in Almor and just about everywhere else.
I'd say the Oerth was destroyed probably around 584 CY, if we assume that the conquest of the Horned Society happened in the Gord books at the same time as it happened in the TSR continuity. Obviously, they're not exactly the same (the Oerth wasn't destroyed in TSR's canon), but absent any specific dates in the novels I think that's as close as we can get.
I haven't done any work on a Gord timeline, but I think the events in the books could be extrapolated from the Beggar's Union/Thieves' Guild War, which Gord was present for (IIRC, he was fleeing the Beggar's headquarters w/ Beggarmaster Theobald in SoOC, & dropped a heavy chest on the Beggarmaster's head, killing him).
According to both tAB & Living Greyhawk Journal #17, the war took place in 571 CY, so move forward from there. Note that Arentol is Thieve's Guildmaster in 571, and dies in 572, per tAB--so there may be a conflict w/ SoOC here, as iirc, Gord was a young teen when he killed Theobald, but is shown later as a young adult playing cards w/ Arentol in SoOC.
Another marker is Gord's association with Evaleigh. In SoOC, she ends their relationship to get married to a nobleman. The LGG identifies this noble (don't remember if SoOC does) as Alain IV, and has them marrying in 579 CY.
An AoE connection is found in LGJ#25, which speaks of Deirdre Longland of Hardby (age 34 in 594 CY), who helped defeat a Pomarj host in the Welkwood in 581 CY.
Other canonical Gord connections include:
The presence of Duke Gellor of Artonsamay (assumed dead as of 583, after Iuz's invasion, but rumors of him still surface--LGG, 26)
The Fiend-Sage reporting on cataboligne demons, who writes that he learned of them "recently" from one of his spies in Greyhawk who heard the tale of one serving as a guardian "from a young rogue." (LGJ#11)
So while Gord haas never been named in GH canon, his presence is still felt now and again.
Oh, well done, Rob! You remind me that Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil are, in fact, TSR/WotC canon, so when AoE describes the fall of Molag on page 343, that's the same (as far as WotC Greyhawk is concerned, although Gygax may not have agreed) fall of Molag that we read about in Greyhawk Wars, which took place in Coldeven of 583, not 582 as I wrote above, at least according to Greyhawk Wars; I need to fix that in the wiki timeline. That mistake means I should probably push the events of Dance of Demons, and Gord's thirtieth birthday, to 585 CY. Which would make him 16 during the Beggar's Union/Thieves' Guild War in 571. Possibly 15.
And all those citations in the Living Greyhawk Journal mean that Erik Mona, who combed the Gord books very carefully for canon, had a very clear idea in his head of exactly when the events of the first two books, at least, took place. One could probably ask him what that was, but the clues that Rob points out are probably enough for us to figure it out on our own.
Okay, I see Gygax notes that Gord is twelve at the beginning of Saga of Old City (page 349). It's not clear how long Gord trained with the Beggars' Guild. Long enough to learn quite a lot, so it might have been a year or more between the very beginning of the novel and Theobald's death. Could it have been four years, which my theory above would require? I guess it could have been, but it seems unlikely. If he was 16 at the time of Theobald's death, then he could indeed have been considered a "young adult" by the following year.
In any case, that does give us the parameters of the saga. He's 12 when the series begins and 30 by the time it ends, so 18 years in all.
If he was only 13 in 571 (which may be more likely), then the entrapment of Tharizdun and Lord Entropy must have happened around 589, which would suggest that the sacking of Molag happened much later in Gygax's timeline than it did in the official one, unless I'm mistaken and there's a much bigger gulf of time between Artifact of Evil and Sea of Death than I think there is, or unless Gygax imagined the Beggar's War happening several years earlier than 571, or unless he did indeed spend four years training with the Beggarmaster (which isn't impossible).
I'm leaning toward having Gord about 16 years old at the time of Theobald's death. Though the book appears to describe him as being little more than a child at that time, it also mentions that he was awarded Master status in the Beggars' Guild and that he became a university student about a year after leaving it. It seems very unlikely that the guild would have made him a master or that he would have been accepted at the university if he was only 13 or 14, regardless of how brilliant he may have been.
In dating the events of the novels, though, we should remember that there were several occasions in which Gord spent time on other planes where time traveled at a different rate. It is further mentioned that this rate may change depending on how long one stays upon certain planes. Therefore, we have at least some room to fudge the numbers when piecing everything together in relation to events on Oerth.
Oh, okay, I missed this. It says in Sea of Death that Gord spends "uncounted days and nights" with the lady-love he meets in the cat realm, the shape-shifting tiger woman Tirrip. Rexfelis also says it's been "months and months" from Gord's perspective, but much less time from the perspective of the Oerth, since time flows differently in his realm.
So we can't use Gord's age to determine how much time passes on Oerth, since the time dilation between the two realms means Gord is several years older than the CY date would suggest. Gord estimates he's between 28 and 30 counting the time spent on Rexfelis's plane (Dance of Demons says outright that he's 30, "perhaps a year or two" later). I might subtract a year or two from the above estimate, then, and say that Dance of Demons takes place no later than 587, even if he only spent a year with Theobald.
Gord also spends some months wandering hundreds of miles through the Baklunish lands, long enough to lose his eastern accent. We might shave much of another year off there. I don't think 585 CY is an unreasonable place to put the climax of Dance of Demons.
It's also true that Graz'zt rules three Abyssal planes in Artifact of Evil, and has conquered five more by Sea of Death. I'm not sure how long that would have taken.
You make some good points, Bubba. He's also short for his age, and he remains younger-looking than his actual age throughout the series (perhaps his ancestry means he matures more slowly than a full-blooded human). So he might have spent four years with Theobald.
Four years seems reasonable. It's clear Gord's quick rise was due in part to his unusual skill. Still, organizations like the Beggars' Guild aren't what one might call pure meritocracies. Rising in an organization like that requires gaining the trust of one's superiors, as well as circumventing or perhaps doing away with rivals. I don't see any reasonable way for Theobald to promote a mere child from the workhouse to Master status in a single year no matter how talented he might have been.
Erik Mona did a detailed write up of Saga of the Old City that includes a convincing breakdown of the dating. Here is what he got:
559, Flocktime: Gord Born.
571, fourth week of Goodmonth: Saga of Old City begins.
571, first week of Harvester: War between Greyhawk Thieves' Guild and Beggars' Union.
576: Tension between Rhennee and Duke Karall becomes violent with a number of small naval battles between the bargefolk and the Urnstmen.
578: Horned Society occupies bandit kingdoms of Warfields and Wormhall.
578, Sunsebb 1: The Battle of Woodford. A twelve thousand strong Aerdian army led by Grand Marshal Dreek bent on invading Nyrond through the Adri forest pushed back at the Harp River by a force of woodsmen and sylvan elves half as strong. The planned invasion is foiled.
579, third week of Planting: Saga of Old City concludes.
So Gord is 30 years old in 589 CY, but as Rasgon pointed out years ago, the time dilation issue means Gord is actually older than he would be if he had not gone to other planes. So 587 CY (28 chronological years) is probably the correct date for Dance of Demons. For sure it is no later than 589. _________________ The eternal war between Law and Chaos flared often in Greyhawk... But the laws of Chance will let neither gain full sway. Quag Keep, Chap 1&2
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