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    Canonfire :: View topic - Define Your Ideal Greyhawk
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    Define Your Ideal Greyhawk
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Jan 02, 2016 9:44 pm  
    Define Your Ideal Greyhawk

    There are many different elements to the Greyhawk setting, and we've all been drawn to the setting by some of them in particular. There's also a lot of disagreement over the best elements of Greyhawk, and which ones we choose to emphasize in our campaigns and stories.

    In this thread, I'd be interested in hearing about what defines the ideal Greyhawk for you-what is it about the setting that most appeals to you? Where do you stick with, or diverge from, specific trends in canon, the visions and tones of writers ranging from Gary Gygax to Carl Sargent to the Living Greyhawk Triads? What do you most emphasize, and what kind of tone do you set?

    Here are the trends that define my ideal Greyhawk:

    Rarity of magic items and high level characters: As I see it, 6th-7th level is an achievement that makes you stand out from the crowd. Characters like Nerof Gasgal, Belissica, Hundgred Ralfsson stand out as figures worth respecting for their exceptional personal prowess just as much for their political power.

    Even +1 swords and shields are cherished treasures. A fighter could go from 1st to 16th level using the same suit of chain mail and the same sword he used as a novice, without once ever encountering a permanently enchanted +1 weapon. When he is confronted by creatures like perytons or gargoyles, he has to make do with oil of sharpness, which is far easier to come by than a magic weapon.

    I based this on the general overall power level and tone that seemed to be implied by Gary Gygax's writings in the 1E DMG (such as the reference to 6th level being "unfathomably high"). Magic items are long, tedious and laborious to make, and the vast majority of wizards also don't have the power necessary to make permanent items (since permanency is an 8th level spell, and few mages ever reach the levels to use such powerful magic) Were I running a 3E campaign, I would restrict characters from getting the feats to craft permanent items until they reached the appropriate level. I would also reduce the magical arsenal of various NPCs, too-even Iuz and the Scarlet Brotherhood don't have all the magical resources they might like to have in an ideal world!

    Oerth as an analogue to Earth: As I understand it, this is in keeping with what Gygax would have eventually liked to do in expanding Oerth-creating continents that would be patterned after Africa, the Middle East, and so forth. I have always considered the Flanaess analogous to North America, and the Flan to First Nations/Native Americans. I know that Gygax once said that wasn't the case, but he also contradicted himself on another occasion when he described the Flan as being partially based off Native American peoples. In any case, it also fits very well with the development of the Flanaess, and what Gygax was getting at with his eventual plans for the rest of Oerth.

    Permanent medieval stasis and a lack of sci-fi references: I know all about the science fantasy tone in Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor materials, and I also know about the crashed starship Gary Gygax added in Expedition To The Barrier Peaks, and Murlynd as a Wild West hero. However, this is one area where I would have to diverge from what these guys wrote.

    I don't mean any disrespect, but I really, really, really hate these types of sci-fi references, in part of because of the implications of what these sci-fi elements could do to the setting if the technology became more widespread. Oerth would technologically advance, and become more and more like our real world-and when that happens in a fantasy setting, magic and the sentient nonhuman creatures seem to tend to disappear, leaving a world populated by humans (Tolkien's Middle Earth being the classic example). The idea that the demihumans and humanoids, and indeed magic itself, are doomed to disappear makes me ill, and almost seems to make the stories and achievements involving these things pointless, since they're doomed to disappear anyway.

    Rather than deal with that, I would prefer to assume that Oerth has reached its technological peak, and that things like steam power, petrochemicals, gunpowder and so forth simply cannot function in this world. Science will always play second fiddle to sorcery in Oerth, to the extent that the world will never know the internal combustion engine, gunpowder, or mechanized flight.

    Grim cynicism, with goodness forced to be pragmatic: Once again, I base this off what was implied in some of the Gygax-penned early materials. Perrenland, Bissel and Veluna are all generally aligned to good, but in the hunt for the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth they are all rivals, if not outright enemies. The heroes hired to invade the Steading of the Hill Giant Chief were hired by the generally benign societies of Keoland, Geoff and Sterich to destroy the giants, but they were threatened with beheading if they failed. The background to the quest of White Plume Mountain talked about the servants suspected of stealing the prized magical weapons of their masters being hanged for their crimes. Erelhei-Cinlu is a pit of depravity, with human and elven slaves forced into prostitution and the drow favoring demonic and perverted artwork.

    There are other examples, of course. The priests of St. Cuthbert in Greyhawk abhor the slave trade and the use of slaves in the city, but they know that it is likely too profitable to ever be eradicated, so they are forced to settle for defending the citizens as much as possible from the depredations of thieves and assassins. The elves of other settings have often fallen from a Golden Age in their past, but the elves of Oerth have always been too fractured and divided to ever have a Golden Age to fall from to begin with. The demihumans of the Hateful Wars continually betrayed one another for political advantage and to lay claim to the richest resources in the Lortmils. The nations of the Iron League have fought wars with each other more than once. Most of the people of Ratik, and its dwarven and gnomish allies, are immediately biased against Evaleigh because she is a woman, believing that only a man can effectively run a realm in the harsh north of the Flanaess. The Flan have been continually and repeatedly betrayed by the Oeridians and the Suel who made promises the latter never intended to keep.

    Goodly nations and rulers continually struggle between their better nature and the temptations of realpolitik, between honoring agreements of mutual aid and competing for new resources, allies and wealth. The goodly gods of the demihuman races gave their creations far more freedom and independence than the gods of the humanoids ever gave theirs, at the cost of seeing many demihumans turn to evil. Heroes who struggle to make the world a better place are frequently left to wonder if their fights are worthwhile, as for every villain that seems to go down in defeat, or every orc den that is cleared out, two more arise to take their places.

    And yet, light can be found in the strangest places. The Rhennee are frequently accused of kidnapping children to fill their ranks, but the children they "kidnap" are usually street urchins or the survivors of humanoid or bandit raids the Rhennee actually adopt, and who tend to avoid far worse fates in the process. The Theocracy of the Pale has historically had many more women in positions of power, including as Theocrat, and is far more committed to gender equality, than most other lands of the Flanaess, in part because of how seriously it takes Pholtus's doctrines. The Aerdy Celestial House of Naelax are wicked through and through, but they actually became liberators to the Flan of what would become North Province, who were already suffering under the evil of the Ur-Flan and their draconic masters. Many of the Flan have actually integrated with the Naelax as equals, despite the Naelax being just about the last people who would be expected to do so.

    As a result, even with all the cynicism, the betrayal of principles, and the grim realities of life in the Flanaess, there is also hope and resolve, as many people refuse to give up and continue fighting for what they believe in. This applies to all levels of society and power, from the young Hieronean idealist who dreams of finally putting an end to the threat of Iuz once and for all, to even the likes of Mordenkainen, who continually struggles with the implications of his actions, whether any course of action he chooses is the right one, and even the realization that his interference might one day damn not only the Flanaess, but quite possibly the entire Oerth, if he makes the wrong decision.

    Thus are so many aspects of my ideal World of Greyhawk.
    GreySage

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    Mon Jan 04, 2016 11:00 am  

    That's an interesting read, CSL, and I tend to agree with your positions.

    I will differ regarding Oerth as an analog to earth, though. I appreciate that none of the races, cultures, or nations in the Flanaess are direct copies of real-world races, cultures, or nations.

    For example, the Perrender culture is quite similar to that of the Swiss, with their pike-wielding mercenary mountain folk, but they are mainly of Flan racial stock. The Flan are described as being very dark-skinned, but their cultures are similar not only to that of American plains Indians, but also to Celtic and Pict tribal eras. The Oeridians seem to be similar, racially, to Greeks, but their culture is more Roman. Etc.

    Personally, I have gone to a more Points-of-Light setting in my Greyhawk campaign. I like it because it allows for monsters to be found nearly anywhere within the borders of a civilized nation.

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    Mon Jan 04, 2016 1:55 pm  

    While you are, of course, free to do as you wish with your game, I respectfully disagree on one point.

    Yes, magic item are vanishingly scare among the general population. But among adventurers who survive, they start becoming quite common. +1 swords and the like are quite common in the old Greyhawk (and pre-Greyhawk) modules... implying they are quite common in the world, if not necessarily easy to find.

    While yes, there's probably only a handful of mages crafting permanent magic items per generation, when your world's recorded history goes back three thousand years or more (and who knows what kind of stuff went on in the unrecorded PREhistory...), that means that over time a LOT of wizards created a LOT of items.

    Everything else you mention is a matter of person (and group) preferences. I tend to run LONG campaigns, so after several years (in and out of game) it's no surprise that my players tend to have name-level characters and get involved in world-spanning plots.

    Eventually, we all get bored with it and start a new game at first level... and the exploits of the previous parties become a new part of the world's background. Or one of my players takes over DM duties for a while and puts his own spin on an area of the world we haven't explored yet, and weaves it into our existing world.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:07 pm  

    1 Sense of humor. The world can be grim, but there's no lack of weird and whimsical stuff.

    2 sci fi garnish with the fantasy stew. Barsoom, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Etc.

    3 regional identity supported by things like encounter tables, map showing trade goods, alignment map, and short entry gazetteer notes

    4 lots of deific variety , and clerics are not all the same in terms of abilities. Room for numerous additional gods, demigods, petty gods, and deified heroes.

    5 lots of sketchily defined parts of the world, easy to fill with homebrew stuff


    6 Norkers!

    7 Geocentric

    8 The Black Ice and other weird places

    9 Little mapped or described outside the Flanaess, leaving the world modular and happily incomplete


    10 Fading Lands. Worthy of their own entry separate from the Black Ice and other " prime Oerth" locations
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 04, 2016 8:12 pm  

    It has never once come into play, but I rather do like the idea that the art of magic will someday fade on the Oerth, or at least in the Flanaess.

    Sorry, CSL.
    But I am not knocking your preference. That would be silly.
    What you see as sad I see as fitting.
    After the summer comes the autumn.
    Adept Greytalker

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    Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:11 pm  

    Generally, I agree with CSL's description. Oerth to me has some of the following attribute:

    The Melting Pot:
    The post-migration Flanaess are a melting pot of the Oeridian (Germanic), Suel (Roman/Byzantine), Flan (Celt/Native American), and to a lesser degree Baklunish (Persian/Arabian/Turkish (in Ket)) cultures. There are four pantheons just among humans and two major centers of civilization (Aerdy and Sheldomar Valley).

    Not for the Faint of Heart
    Adventurers die in Greyhawk. There is no healing service or whimsical archmage who swoops in when things are darkest... no, the characters stand a good change of adding to a dungeon's ambiance and being the future subject of a speak with dead spell.

    Give Me That Good Old Feudalism
    Just that; a feudal world with lords, overlords, vassals, and all the fun that implies. While adventurers may thumb their noses at local authority once, they will quickly find out what a feudal oath means when the farmer who they roughed up gets help from the castle. Lots of opportunity for social interaction.

    Wonders are Wondrous
    I agree that magic is rare on Oerth, but not unheard of. While the original modules did not lack for Monty Haulism (I have my own system for dealing with that), Greyhawk never felt like it was over-run with loot or the technologizing of magic (crystal-ball telegraph services). I always felt that even a dagger+1 was a rare find, and not something to add to the stockpile.

    Monsters are Monstrous
    The Flanaess are largely settled within the arable expanse of each nation (forests, hills, and the like excepted). When monsters are encountered, it is memorable, and not just another day in the life of Ralph the experience point hunter.

    Characters can be Pawns
    While not unique to Greyhawk, the national politics being engaged in above the characters is such that they may find themselves co-opted by any number of states. And is the Scarlet Brotherhood manipulating everyone?

    Paranoia
    People are just trying to stay alive, so trusting is a rare thing from strangers. Post-war, after the Scarlet Brotherhood has struck, it is even rarer.
    Apprentice Greytalker

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    Wed Jan 06, 2016 7:47 pm  

    Well, every DM and group is going to gravitate to their own particular sensibilities, but I find my own preferences to be a near match to CruelSummerLord.

    My biggest issue with Greyhawk, and what caused me to all but ignore the setting until I just recently joined this forum, is what I perceived as a prevalence of over-the-top silliness. When I read about a six-shooter wielding wizard invading the titular Castle Greyhawk and combating an entire level of Martian Apes, I turned away for several years. Several of the goofy PC names, anagrams or homophones of the players, also turned me off a bit (though not deal breaking). When I read the origin behind the name of the wizard Melf, I wanted to burn my eyeballs out. Throw in spaceships and Cheshire Cats, flumphs, and an underground slide that literally leads to China, and I was out. I know Gygax is rolling around in his grave, saying I should lighten up and not take my "fantasy" so seriously, but I just can't abide that level of foolishness in my games. If others enjoy it, I'm thrilled for them, it just doesn't work for me and my players.

    As far as scarcity of magical items, I mostly agree with CSL, with one important caveat. I tend to be very stingy and hold to the "magic items are extremely rare" camp, but when they are discovered I tend to make them quite powerful and memorable. See, if a smith is so gifted as to be able to create an enchanted blade, I find it a cop-out to then make it: Longsword +1 as opposed to something like Anduril, Flame of the West. Who are these blacksmiths that are mass-cranking out "kinda" magical weapons in the form of a near infinite supply of +1 daggers? Coming from a Forgotten Realms background, I see entire city watches where every soldier is given a standard issue +1 chainmail and +1 longsword. That doesn't sit well with me, as even the vastly powerful Roman Empire of our own history couldn't always outfit all of its soldiers with uniform equipment.

    That is why, on the rare occasion I do dole out a magical item, it is never just a weapon with "x" amount of plusses tacked on. It's always going to have some amount of special properties in addition to the enhancement bonus, and more often than not have a proper name and history. To circumvent the potential problem of lower/mid level PCs needing magical weaponry to overcome some foes resistances, I often grant such weapons earlier in the campaign but hold back some of the powers of the weapon, as though the character is not powerful enough yet to unlock it to its fullest extent. This way the item grows with the player, and every couple levels a new power comes to the fore. I guess it's just a quality vs quantity argument for me. I'd prefer my players to top out with 2 or 3 powerful magical items as opposed to a magical piece in each and every slot, but of middling effect.

    A last point I'll touch on that I haven't seen mentioned yet, is that I tend to (in all my games/settings) have a heavy Outer Planar influence. Planescape happens to be my most beloved campaign setting, so I tend to view all of the terrestrial Prime Material worlds (Oerth, Toril, Krynn, etc.) as a battleground for the ultimate war of soul acquisition between Celestials and Fiends. This leads me to include all manner of dark bargains and corruptive temptations, so I will lean towards geographic areas that have a history of devil or demon influence.
    Journeyman Greytalker

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    Thu Jan 07, 2016 12:05 am  

    VikingLegion wrote:
    My biggest issue with Greyhawk, and what caused me to all but ignore the setting until I just recently joined this forum, is what I perceived as a prevalence of over-the-top silliness. When I read about a six-shooter wielding wizard invading the titular Castle Greyhawk and combating an entire level of Martian Apes, I turned away for several years. Several of the goofy PC names, anagrams or homophones of the players, also turned me off a bit (though not deal breaking). When I read the origin behind the name of the wizard Melf, I wanted to burn my eyeballs out. Throw in spaceships and Cheshire Cats, flumphs, and an underground slide that literally leads to China, and I was out. I know Gygax is rolling around in his grave, saying I should lighten up and not take my "fantasy" so seriously, but I just can't abide that level of foolishness in my games. If others enjoy it, I'm thrilled for them, it just doesn't work for me and my players.


    It's probably a bit late for this, but my suggestion would be, ignore the silly crap. No need to have Clint Eastwood the Archmage in your campaign if he doesn't fit. No need for Martian apes, when ogres will do just fine.
    Nothing wrong with having a laugh in the game, but yeah, there is a line between occasional humor to lighten the mood, and outright cartoon level silliness.


    VikingLegion wrote:
    As far as scarcity of magical items, I mostly agree with CSL, with one important caveat. I tend to be very stingy and hold to the "magic items are extremely rare" camp, but when they are discovered I tend to make them quite powerful and memorable. See, if a smith is so gifted as to be able to create an enchanted blade, I find it a cop-out to then make it: Longsword +1 as opposed to something like Anduril, Flame of the West. Who are these blacksmiths that are mass-cranking out "kinda" magical weapons in the form of a near infinite supply of +1 daggers? Coming from a Forgotten Realms background, I see entire city watches where every soldier is given a standard issue +1 chainmail and +1 longsword. That doesn't sit well with me, as even the vastly powerful Roman Empire of our own history couldn't always outfit all of its soldiers with uniform equipment.

    That is why, on the rare occasion I do dole out a magical item, it is never just a weapon with "x" amount of plusses tacked on. It's always going to have some amount of special properties in addition to the enhancement bonus, and more often than not have a proper name and history. To circumvent the potential problem of lower/mid level PCs needing magical weaponry to overcome some foes resistances, I often grant such weapons earlier in the campaign but hold back some of the powers of the weapon, as though the character is not powerful enough yet to unlock it to its fullest extent. This way the item grows with the player, and every couple levels a new power comes to the fore. I guess it's just a quality vs quantity argument for me. I'd prefer my players to top out with 2 or 3 powerful magical items as opposed to a magical piece in each and every slot, but of middling effect.


    I definitely agree on this. As far as the whole city watch being armed and armored with +1 gear, that requires totally ignoring the cost to produce EACH item. At least in 1st and 2nd editions, it not only required the actual item to be enchanted (which must be of the highest quality, which I'd also interpret as costing significantly more) any other material components for the spell(s) to enchant the item, and let us not forget, the point of Con the casting wizard must sacrifice for each of these items to make the enchantment permanent. It never made sense to me, that any wizard would throw away a point of Con for a lousy +1 weapon. After all, it's the same one point of Con no matter how much magic you're putting into the item before making it permanent, so why not go all out?

    For those town watches, rather than having them all equipped with magical +1 weapons (which as I mentioned in the above paragraph, would be prohibitively expensive), maybe they all have high quality weapons that provide the +1 (to hit, damage, or both; DM's call) without the need for being enchanted. They would still cost more than the standard weapon, but not to the point of bringing the kingdom to total economic ruin like all magic weapons would.

    I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who has done the magic items that increase in power along with the user. It can alleviate the problem of "Well, now I got my frost brand, time to sell off my old +2 longsword!" and the issue of the character and all that excess cash. And, it can give the player something to look forward to: "Cool, next level I'll be able to do (spell effect) with my (item)."
    GreySage

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    Thu Jan 07, 2016 3:53 am  

    BlueWitch wrote:
    VikingLegion wrote:
    My biggest issue with Greyhawk, and what caused me to all but ignore the setting until I just recently joined this forum, is what I perceived as a prevalence of over-the-top silliness. When I read about a six-shooter wielding wizard invading the titular Castle Greyhawk and combating an entire level of Martian Apes, I turned away for several years. Several of the goofy PC names, anagrams or homophones of the players, also turned me off a bit (though not deal breaking). When I read the origin behind the name of the wizard Melf, I wanted to burn my eyeballs out. Throw in spaceships and Cheshire Cats, flumphs, and an underground slide that literally leads to China, and I was out. I know Gygax is rolling around in his grave, saying I should lighten up and not take my "fantasy" so seriously, but I just can't abide that level of foolishness in my games. If others enjoy it, I'm thrilled for them, it just doesn't work for me and my players.


    It's probably a bit late for this, but my suggestion would be, ignore the silly crap. No need to have Clint Eastwood the Archmage in your campaign if he doesn't fit. No need for Martian apes, when ogres will do just fine.
    Nothing wrong with having a laugh in the game, but yeah, there is a line between occasional humor to lighten the mood, and outright cartoon level silliness.


    A lot of that doesn't even appear in published Greyhawk; they were features of Gygax's home game, run in the early 1970s for his young children and not included in published modules and sourcebooks. There are no Martian apes or slides to China in the published Castle Greyhawk. The Alice in Wonderland inspired levels did get modules, but they're confined to demiplanes and don't leak out into the surrounding world. Murlynd is mentioned in a few places, but he's removed from the setting as a quasi-deity who wanders the planes, and I think he's pretty easily ignorable. Slavers tries to reinterpret him as a god of inventiveness, similar to Gond in the Forgotten Realms, and the Living Greyhawk Journal made him the patron of an order of paladins within the church of Heironeous, but either way his cult is tiny enough they have no real impact on the setting.

    The novel Artifact of Evil gave Melf a more serious name, Prince Brightflame, and the Melf action figure was renamed Peralay, so I think of him as Peralay "Melf" Brightflame. The origin of the name Melf (his character sheet said "M elf," or male elf) is cute given the youth if the player at the time, and it doesn’t bother me personally

    Flumphs aren't really a prominent part of the setting; they aren't on any setting-specific encounter charts and don't feature in any modules other than the parody module WG7, which has been stricken from canon. They're a bigger part of Golarion, which makes interesting use of them as harbingers of the Elder Gods, traveling through space from gas giants to warn people of their coming.
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    Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:37 am  

    It is interesting that some guys group things like some monsters from Barsoom and the crashed spaceship section in Exp. to the Barrier Peaks in with pun names.

    I get that some guys want a more " Tolkienian" fantasy feel.
    No sci fi.

    You guys who know me somewhat must know I am not one to judge other gamers' preferences. I am just curious why science fiction elements seem silly to some of you.

    Or is it the cumulative effect of weirdness, Viking Legion? D&D is so strange in its mix of disparate cultural elements that a crashed spaceship pushes things into gonzo country for you?
    Kitchen sink effect?
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    Thu Jan 07, 2016 5:37 am  

    It is interesting that some guys group things like some monsters from Barsoom and the crashed spaceship section in Exp. to the Barrier Peaks in with pun names.

    I get that some guys want a more " Tolkienian" fantasy feel.
    No sci fi.

    You guys who know me somewhat must know I am not one to judge other gamers' preferences. I am just curious why science fiction elements seem silly to some of you.

    Or is it the cumulative effect of weirdness, Viking Legion? D&D is so strange in its mix of disparate cultural elements that a crashed spaceship pushes things into gonzo country for you?
    Kitchen sink effect?
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    Thu Jan 07, 2016 10:51 am  

    I'm going to go for the easy answer. My ideal Greyhawk is one where I'm having fun. If I'm DMing my players should be having fun too. Wink
    GreySage

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    Thu Jan 07, 2016 11:44 am  

    CombatMedic wrote:
    I get that some guys want a more " Tolkienian" fantasy feel.
    No sci fi.


    This is me, generally. I enjoy puns and I'll throw in comedy aplenty, but if I include sci-fi it is extremely rare and couched in medieval/fantasy terms to avoid ruining the mood. Myrlynd's six-shooters being described as metal wands is a good example.

    I don't mind the idea that a portal could be opened to Earth, or some other future technological world (Gamma World, Star Frontiers, etc.), but I don't want that world to be able to seriously affect my Greyhawk.

    That is also the main reason why I don't like psionics in my fantasy games. To me, fantasy equals spell-casting wizards, while sci-fi has its mental powered super-heroes (psionics). Plus the fact that it unbalances the game when a wizard (even a sorcerer) must use material, somatic, and verbal components to cast spells, but all a psionic has to do is be conscious enough to think.

    Castle Greyhawk is an example of too much silliness for me. If you read through my blogs in the Campaign Journals and General Online Play you'll see that my campaigns include quite a bit of humor. That humor is almost always player-driven, however. Not always, though. I admit that the ridiculous rhymes and dancing a jig by the efreetis in White Plume Mountain was all my own doing. Razz

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    Fri Jan 08, 2016 8:15 pm  

    CombatMedic wrote:
    It is interesting that some guys group things like some monsters from Barsoom and the crashed spaceship section in Exp. to the Barrier Peaks in with pun names.

    I get that some guys want a more " Tolkienian" fantasy feel.
    No sci fi.

    You guys who know me somewhat must know I am not one to judge other gamers' preferences. I am just curious why science fiction elements seem silly to some of you.

    Or is it the cumulative effect of weirdness, Viking Legion? D&D is so strange in its mix of disparate cultural elements that a crashed spaceship pushes things into gonzo country for you?
    Kitchen sink effect?


    For me it's not so much the silliness as it is the implications of this kind of technology landing (quite literally, in some cases) in the setting. The presence of clockwork automatons, firearms, electrically powered robots and other such things could cause technology to take root on Oerth, make it industrialize, and cause science to supplant sorcery as the dominant force in the world.

    The idea appalls me, particularly if it means the disappearance of demihumans, humanoids and fantastic creatures and the conversion of Oerth into our boring, drab real world. CombatMedic talks about how autumn comes after summer, but I would reply that day and night are eternal and unchanging-these things, so fundamental to the workings of life on this world, are such that life cannot exist without them. So my thinking is a lot like SirXaris's in this way. It's why, when I wrote up my version of the Blackmoor City of the Gods, I completely reimagined it, and made it literally a city created by the gods of Oerth.

    As for the silliness, it just clashes with the atmosphere that I like to go for in my stories and writings. That said, it's not actually a big deal for me if it is something that doesn't stand out and isn't immediately obvious to someone who doesn't know the background. Unless you know about Dave Arneson and his collaboration with Gary Gygax, or the story of how Melf got his name, or how the minerals of tumkeoite and lacofcite got their names, then the reference isn't obvious and fit in well with the rest of the setting.

    If the comedy actually fits the setting, then it can enrich the story, in my view. The insults I have Weimar Glendowyr throw in the bar fight in Dyvers in my new Silver Wolf story are a good example, since I can imagine it happening in the setting.

    A lot of the stuff in Castle Greyhawk...not so much.
    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 09, 2016 9:05 am  

    Although I am a scientist by trade, I, too, am not a fan of interjected too much technology into my fantasy-based campaigns. I try to keep the technology to what would be found in a typical medieval world setting. To me, technology equates to games such as Star Wars, Star Frontiers, and Star Trek (I have played all three). I agree that an abundance of technology and scientific innovation would supplant magic (though this could be great fodder for a magic vs. technology sort of world setting), and that, to me, destroys the whole feeling of a fantasy game.

    This does not mean that I don't try to interject scientific ideas and explanations into my game. No sir/ma'am! As many of you know by my many postings, I often infuse 'realism' into my campaign settings to explain various aspects of my Oerth, from ecologies of regions (complete with predator-prey balances) to the various behaviors of fantastic beasts. To me, there can be a balance between magic and scientific explanations/principles, but I keep the actual tech to a minimum.

    I also run a 'gritty' campaign setting much akin to what CruelSummerLord describes in his games. People, no matter if they are good or evil (or something in between), have their own motives and perspectives, and good folks don't always do the right thing all of the time. Sometimes they clash (I get tired of the stereotypical Good vs. Evil plots). By the same token, evil beings (unless they are EVIL incarnate, like fiends or the greater undead) sometimes show the capacity for 'goodness.' Even Adolph Hitler, it is rumored, had a soft spot for his dogs.

    PCs die. I don't make a habit of it, but, to me, if players know there is no way they will be rubbed out, there is no risk. It is possible to have them Raised, but that is not a sure thing. After all, there are 'costs' and prices to pay asking for Powers to intervene... I have a large stack of old PCs (and NPCs) who perished along the way to prove that death comes to all.

    I try to find a balance to the number of magic items in my game. As was pointed out earlier, only the most powerful of priests and sorcerers can fashion permanent items. This does not mean that magic is rare in my games, but I don't want it to be plentiful (the mention of Forgotten Realms comes to mind). Additionally, magic items can be destroyed in my games with failed saving throws from enemy 'fire' (especially from spells like Fireballs, Lightning Bolts, Cones of Cold and the like). This makes my players become cognizant just how precious these items are, because they are very difficult to replace.

    I am an avid role-player. I want my players to role-play, too. This doesn't mean we don't throw down with combat. Even I get listless after many gaming sessions of pure role-play without some kind of conflict. Nonetheless, I try to make even my NPCs unique and 3-D in terms of personality, motivations, etc. PCs are even more fleshed-out.

    Silliness does not really take hold in my games...but I DO have a sense of humor, and banter, jokes, and bouts of light-heartedness do occasionally pop up. This is especially true if the character(s) in mind have this sort of personality. But outright silliness, nope.

    That's my World of Greyhawk.

    -Lanthorn
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    Sat Jan 09, 2016 10:20 am  

    I love how this thread has turned out-it's fascinating to see where our preferences overlap, and where they differ.

    The replies here have also reminded me of other things that appeal to me and exist in my take on Oerth, but that I didn't list myself:

    Scientific context: What I mean by this is what Lanthorn talks about regarding regional ecologies and fantastic beasts, as opposed to more advanced tech making its way into the setting. Even if the "Ecology of the Piercer" was originally meant as a humorous in-joke, to me it adds depth and believability to the setting, and can stimulate my imagination in new ways.

    Light-hearted but not silly moments: Lanthorn, CombatMedic and SirXaris all touched on what I think is the right way to apply humor even in a grimmer setting like the kind many of us like to run. If it makes sense within the setting itself and doesn't destroy the mood, then again it can make for a refreshing change of pace and an enjoyable moment.

    A cultural melting pot: I've gone on at length about this in other threads, so I won't go into the details here, but I'm a big fan of trying to imagine how non-European cultures might change if they appeared in a D&D context with demihumans, magic, etc. However, in a post-Migrations Flanaess this cultural intermingling and development continues between human cultures, and between humans and nonhumans.

    Intrigue: Tarleton talks about how players, as much as anyone else, can be manipulated by larger groups acting behind the scenes. This is a staple of the Forgotten Realms, but that setting tends to concentrate more on power games between independent groups, whereas Greyhawk materials have tended to focus more on the politics and intrigues between different states. Even many of Greyhawk's organizations, such as the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Horned Society, the various orders of knighthood, certain churches, and the People of the Testing are largely tied up with specific states. The Circle of Eight is almost an anomaly in not being linked to a specific state.

    But the idea of the adventurers being caught up in the intrigues of high-ranking characters is always fertile ground for new adventures. It was on another forum, but one poster mentioned how much his players almost figuratively soiled themselves when they realized that Mordenkainen had taken an active interest in what they were doing. Evil Grin
    GreySage

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    Sat Jan 09, 2016 9:30 pm  

    Lanthorn is right about the level of science I like to interject into my Greyhawk campaign. Most anything the real Medieval world had, is the limit to technology in my campaign, but I do like to have realistic, scientific explanations for the natural world. The Ecology of... series of articles in Dragon Magazine was a perfect example of that. I like things to make sense.

    Magic can alter what is real, of course, but even magic must make sense. Some campaigns may imagine that magic is non-sensical, from a scientific point of view, but I prefer to think of it as another part of nature that simply doesn't exist in the real world. Mages study magic - they research, form hypotheses, and test them, making slight alterations, until they figure out how to make magic work the way they want it to. That's exactly how scientists in our real world operate. The first level mage isn't studied/experienced enough to develop a method of casting Meteor Swarm just as the recent college graduate isn't studied/experienced enough to figure out on his/her own how to build an atomic bomb from scratch.

    Monsters, too, act according to their nature and intelligence. Orcs, and other evil humanoids, aren't mindless, but they are inherently evil - different from humans and demi-humans who have agency - so they act realistically, but can always be counted on to act selfishly and cruelly. Still, my players learn very quickly that intelligent monsters don't just sit in their guard rooms and wait for the PCs to make it to their part of the lair before they join the fight. Evil Grin

    The gods
    I'll add this issue to the discussion.

    In my Greyhawk, the gods are very interested in what is going on in Greyhawk because much (though not all) of their personal power is directly derived from the amount of worship and offerings they receive from mortals. Thus, they actively encourage such behavior. However, they may not directly intervene in the affairs of the Prime Material, and they are very limited in the amount of intervention they are allowed by their angelic and fiendish proxies. Eons ago, they made a pact of non-intervention, and they sealed that pact with magic that all of them contributed to (or, at least enough of them that the few who refused are still affected by the consequences if they ignore the forbiddance) that causes great distress (of an undisclosed nature) to any god (or Arch devil, etc.) that violates that agreement. This is, obviously, to prevent the Oerth from being destroyed by multiple gods doing battle directly upon the planet itself.

    Thus, my players don't expect me to send a god to save them from death... ever. Death is real. Like Lanthorn said, I don't go out of my way to kill a PC, but I let it happen, whether from the consequence of a players choice to simple bad luck. (When the giant crab in White Plume Mountain rolls three nat 20s in a row, your character dies. That's just bad luck, dude. Shocked )

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    Sun Jan 10, 2016 12:07 am  

    Wow, this is a great thread! Here's some of the things I'd like to have in my Greyhawk, but I'm always open-minded.

    MAGIC IS NOT FOR SALE... IN GENERAL

    I have tried to figure out how to do this, but I found a way that works pretty well. Boccob is the most powerful deity and something that really annoys him is trivializing magic. Magic has to be special and unique. Therefore he uses his influence and that of his clergy to fight off everything, big and small, that might make magic less than special. Any attempt to set up a magic shop where swords +1 are sold will be shut down pretty soon. I have the more exotic parts of the Flanaess exempt from this: they can have magic shops... Maybe.

    IT'S SMART TO WORSHIP ONE GOD

    I grew up seeing the word "deity" on character sheets. A character should have no deity or one deity, just because I never saw "deities" on a character sheet. This is hardly enforced in my games, but there's a catch: if you have been a loyal servant of a god or goddess, your soul will have a better afterlife. This works even with the evil gods and evil characters. An evil god will have something special for a loyal evil worshipper in afterlife. Divided loyalites, whether the worshipper is LG or CE, will result in less than ideal afterlife. Maybe the soul will just merge with an appropriate plane.

    CLERGIES COMPETE FOR SOULS

    Since it's a good idea for a person to worship one deity, the clergies compete for souls. Everyone competes and the competition is hard. If you are a lay worshipper of a deity, such as a lawful good fighter who worships Heironeous, who must have good relationships with the local church, tithe and never listen to clerics of Pelor and such. The local clergy of Heironeous wants to make absolutely sure that your soul goes to their god. In return, they limit their spells, even low-level heals, to loyal worshippers. There's not a deity so chaotic or so stupid that would overlook the Great Competition.

    HIGH-LEVEL CASTERS ARE WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION... OR LIFE SAVING

    All lawful or good casters that reach high levels understand or are made to understand that the world can end at any minute. The planes are filled with powerful fiends and the world is filled with powerful evils. Many of the high-level casters save their most powerful spells, every day, to save the world from an apocalypse. Getting a wizard or a cleric to cast high level spells is hard. If the gates of hell open now, how can they save the world if they have just wasted that spell on resurrecting your buddy?

    EVIL AND GOOD ARE NOT EASILY DETECTABLE

    Being evil or good doesn't mean that you're evil or good all the time. Alignment detection and other similar methods only work if the person is having good or evil thoughts at that moment. Same goes with chaos and law.

    THIS IS A MEDIEVAL WORLD

    Abortion, homosexuality, women's rights don't exist and will be suppressed, necromantic magic is banned and so forth. This is not your liberal fairytale world. Greyhawk is a medieval world. Someone who suffers from autism or epilepsy doesn't receive understanding or caring. Those conditions are curses from the gods! Or from a witch... Burn the witch!
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    Sun Jan 10, 2016 7:13 pm  

    A Dark Age, where chaos and the wilderness reclaimed much of the great civilizations of old. For example, the lost "Great Kingdom" is a land dominated by barbarians and humanoid tribes, with feudal lords holding small fiefs, each seeking to expand and some claiming the lineage of past kings. An emphasis on the "points of light." My current campaign is set in 1080 CY, and the civilized lands are smaller and hard pressed.

    Magical items are not common place, and each has a story to tell. A sword+1 was forged in the ancient Suel Imperium, hammered by dwarf slaves, enchanted by legendary wizards and made for a specific purpose or bearer. Each is a storyline of its own.

    The world can be changed. Heroes, antiheroes and villains can change the status quo. New realms can be forged, old ones could rise again or fall forever.

    There's a place for all types of stories. A crashed spaceship from another world, a visit to gamma world, etc. It's there if the players are into it. I tailor the stories to the interests of the players.

    Fantasy-feudalism. The norms vary from location to location. The world is polytheistic, with numerous divinities, spirits, etc. What is forbidden in the Theocracy of the Pale, may be acceptable in Greyhawk City.
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    Mon Jan 11, 2016 10:23 am  

    As far as the silliness of Castle Greyhawk goes...

    Are you aware there are TWO separate Castle Greyhawk modules, one silly and one serious?

    If silliness isn't your thing, use the other one.
    GreySage

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    Mon Jan 11, 2016 7:35 pm  

    Vulcan wrote:
    As far as the silliness of Castle Greyhawk goes...

    Are you aware there are TWO separate Castle Greyhawk modules, one silly and one serious?

    If silliness isn't your thing, use the other one.


    I am guessing that you mean Greyhawk Ruins when you say, 'the serious one'. Right?

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    Wed Jan 13, 2016 12:15 pm  

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    ...Permanent medieval stasis and a lack of sci-fi references: ...I don't mean any disrespect, but I really, really, really hate these types of sci-fi references, in part of because of the implications of what these sci-fi elements could do to the setting if the technology became more widespread. Oerth would technologically advance, and become more and more like our real world-and when that happens in a fantasy setting, magic and the sentient nonhuman creatures seem to tend to disappear, leaving a world populated by humans...


    -That may have happened in JRR T's take on our world, but the one doesn't neccessarily follow the other.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    ...I would prefer to assume that Oerth has reached its technological peak, and that things like steam power, petrochemicals, gunpowder and so forth simply cannot function in this world. Science will always play second fiddle to sorcery in Oerth, to the extent that the world will never know the internal combustion engine, gunpowder, or mechanized flight...


    ...and...

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    ...For me it's not so much the silliness as it is the implications of this kind of technology landing (quite literally, in some cases) in the setting. The presence of clockwork automatons, firearms, electrically powered robots and other such things could cause technology to take root on Oerth, make it industrialize, and cause science to supplant sorcery as the dominant force in the world...


    -Hmmm... imagine that magic did function in our world (or for those of you who think it does, assume it did so a lot more obviously). Would it play "second fiddle" to technology? I doubt it. "Cure/Remove Disease" spells would come in handy even in 2016.

    Because of opportunity costs, the widespread use of magic would probably slow technological developement but not prevent it (and vice versa). FWIW, I assume that the Flanaess in 576 CY is roughly equivalent to AD 1445 (e.g., minus an indegenous gunpowder/firearms industry, but with a better understanding of medical pathology). From there, tech' advances one historical year for every two in the Flanaess. Armor, weapon, and ship technology improve, with (for example) plate armor becoming cheaper and more common.

    CruelSummerLord wrote:
    ... I know all about the science fantasy tone in Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor materials, and I also know about the crashed starship Gary Gygax added in Expedition To The Barrier Peaks, and Murlynd as a Wild West hero...


    1) Dave Arneson's Blackmoor was not Greyhawk, although there is some bleedover into the Greyhawk version. The oddities of our Blackmoor seem to be extra-planar;

    2) The origin of the spaceship was also extra-planar;

    3) The guy who played Murlynd died in 1975 IIRC, and the origin of his six-shooters was also explained as extra-planar.

    In all of these cases, high technology does not effect the general population of the Flanaess (which seems to be your main concern). No matter how you slice it, Oerth is usually low tech'.

    VikingLegion wrote:
    ...My biggest issue with Greyhawk, and what caused me to all but ignore the setting until I just recently joined this forum, is what I perceived as a prevalence of over-the-top silliness. When I read about a six-shooter wielding wizard invading the titular Castle Greyhawk and combating an entire level of Martian Apes, I turned away for several years...

    ...Throw in spaceships and Cheshire Cats, flumphs, and an underground slide that literally leads to China, and I was out...


    -Again, as others have mentioned, all of these issues (except the Flumphs) were extra-planar. You had to go through a magic gate to get there, and it didn't effect the campaign as a whole AFAIK.

    As Rasgon points out, Flumphs weren't any more common in Oerth than they were anywhere else (where did you get the impression that they were?). FWIW, there was a fairly intersting low-level adventure featuring them. I think it would fit in somewhwere on the coast of Keoland or the Principality of Ulek.

    I guess I'm with Sir X on this...

    SirXaris wrote:
    ...I don't mind the idea that a portal could be opened to Earth, or some other future technological world (Gamma World, Star Frontiers, etc.), but I don't want that world to be able to seriously affect my Greyhawk...


    ...but I'll have to disagree with him on this:

    SirXaris wrote:
    ...I don't like psionics in my fantasy games. To me, fantasy equals spell-casting wizards, while sci-fi has its mental powered super-heroes (psionics)...


    ...mostly because I think psionics really isn't all that "scientific". It's just another form of magic.

    SirXaris wrote:
    ...Most anything the real Medieval world had, is the limit to technology in my campaign, but I do like to have realistic, scientific explanations for the natural world...

    Magic can alter what is real, of course, but even magic must make sense. Some campaigns may imagine that magic is non-sensical, from a scientific point of view, but I prefer to think of it as another part of nature that simply doesn't exist in the real world...


    -Sums up my opinion nicely.

    VikingLegion wrote:
    ...Several of the goofy PC names, anagrams or homophones of the players, also turned me off a bit (though not deal breaking)...


    -That I'll grant. EGG's idea of imaginative linguistics was spelling his relatives' names backwards. Ugh. JRR T he wasn't.

    Feel free to post:

    http://www.canonfire.com/cf/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=6161


    Last edited by jamesdglick on Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:38 pm; edited 6 times in total
    GreySage

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    Wed Jan 13, 2016 4:44 pm  

    For the record, I've never been all that fond of psionics, either. Just personal preference is all.

    I also don't have my Gods and Deities directly active in the affairs of my Oerth. As somebody else noted, this would destroy the Prime Material. Do NOT misconstrue this as that they are not interested in the affairs of mortals. They just don't directly intervene. That's what their proxies are for (ex: priests, holy warriors, devout followers)!

    -Lanthorn
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    Thu Jan 14, 2016 5:19 am  

    RE Demihumans and magical decline

    I don't see any particular connection.

    Several demihuman races are actually less magical than humans. Namely; dwarves, Halflings, and gnomes ( gnomes in regard to non illusion wizard magic, anyway).

    And elves don't actually have much, if anything, in the way of innate magical abilities.

    So GH in Pluffet Smedger's day may have plenty of demihumans. Or not, as one likes.
    That calls for a new thread...
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