Greyhawk

This article is about the Greyhawk setting. For other uses, see Greyhawk (disambiguation).
Greyhawk
Greyhawk logo01.JPG
The Greyhawk logo.
Designer(s) Gary Gygax
Publisher(s) TSR, Inc.
Wizards of the Coast
Publication date 1975, 1980
Genre(s) Fantasy


Greyhawk, also known as the World of Greyhawk, is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game. The World of Greyhawk includes the Free City of Greyhawk, from which the name was taken. As one of the earliest of the D&D campaign settings, many of the rules for the game itself were developed in conjunction with game play by Gary Gygax and others in and around Castle Greyhawk and its dungeons. While constructing the milieu, Gygax also incorporated the campaign worlds of his fellow role-players, such as Blackmoor (Dave Arneson's campaign) and the Lendore Isles (a region created by long-time stalwart Len Lakofka).

Historically, direct links between the core D&D rules and any particular campaign setting have been limited. Through all editions of the game however, Greyhawk has had a strong influence over the core rules, such as serving as the source for names of many well-known spells and magic items. The current D&D "Core Setting" is largely based on Greyhawk, and the default pantheon of deities for D&D is largely taken from Greyhawk. The current edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide (3.5 edition) pays visual tribute to Greyhawk's influence on the game, featuring on its cover a small map of the continent of Oerik etched onto the globe of Oerth.

Contents

The World of Greyhawk

Geography and population

In the Greyhawk setting, the planet Oerth has four continents. Only one of these continents, Oerik, has been officially described in various D&D publications over the past 30+ years, and in fact detailed information is available only for its eastern end, known as the Flanaess.

Although home D&D campaigns can be set in or around the Free City of Greyhawk itself, there are no restrictions with respect to time period or location. The Flanaess can be broken down geographically as follows: the Baklunish Basin in the northwest, the Empire of Iuz in the north, the Thillonrian Peninsula in the northeast, the Sea of Dust in the far west, the Sheldomar Valley in the west, old Ferrond and its southern frontier (including the City of Greyhawk) at the center of the Flanaess, Old Sulm and the Aerdy frontier to the east, the old Great Kingdom to the far east, and the Amedio Jungle to the southwest.

Certain elements of Greyhawk's geography are fantastic in nature, such as the Sea of Dust and the Land of Black Ice. Other elements are more closely analogous to real-world Europe, such as the Thillonrian Peninsula's geographical resemblance to Scandinavia.

The Flanaess is home to Oerth's "enlightened humanity," and much of the flavor of the Greyhawk setting arises from the interplay of the various "sub-races" of humanity -- Baklunish, Flannae, Oeridians, Olman, Rhennee, Suloise, and Touv in particular -- as they have criss-crossed the Flanaess over the last millennium. The setting's fans have debated the exact nature of these sub-races (and their real world analogues, if any) over the years, but key distinguishing features include antagonism between the Bakluni and Suloise (and the ancient war that nearly annihilated them both), the relative primitiveness of the indigenous Flan, and the Oerdians' military conquest of much of the Flanaess.

Various fantasy races also populate the Flanaess, sometimes acting as allies to humanity in the same vein as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Elves and dwarves of different sorts even have powerful strongholds and nations, with gnomes and halflings living in smaller pockets near friendly (and more powerful) neighbors. Even where these races are politically advanced, such as in Celene (realm) or the Ulek States, isolationist policies often limit their power to the regions they inhabit. Wicked drow elves often plot mischief against the free world, with other nefarious creatures such as orcs, ogres, giants, and dragons acting as all-purpose enemies. When viewed as a whole, however, the Flanaess appears anthropocentric (or more specifically, humanocentric) despite the presence of so many fantastic species.

Political powers

At the center of this game world stands the Free City of Greyhawk, a city-state once under the domination of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. The Circle of Eight, a select group of wizards, monitor events across the Flanaess, intervening when the balance of power is threatened by extremes of good or evil. Several evil factions still prevail across the sub-continent, including the undead remnants of Aerdy, the wicked demi-god Iuz (who rules his expanding territory, the Empire of Iuz), and the mysterious Scarlet Brotherhood (whose racial purity doctrines and fanatical monasticism invite comparisons with both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan). The orcs and other humanoids of the Pomarj, led by chieftain Turrosh Mak, threaten the Wild Coast and the Ulek States. Among the factions opposing these forces of evil are the major kingdoms of Nyrond, Furyondy, and Keoland as well as numerous smaller states, organizations and individuals.

Major personages

  • Bigby, known mostly for his many hand and fist spells.
  • Eclavdra, the drow high priestess who fomented the Giant Rebellion.
  • Edralve, another drow priestess who worked with the Slave Lords of the Pomarj.
  • Gord, a young rogue from Greyhawk who reluctantly became a crusader for Neutrality.
  • Iuz the Old, half-fiend tyrant-god of the Land of Iuz.
  • Jallarzi Sallavarian, the first woman to join the Circle of Eight, a capable wizard in her own right.
  • Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders, the chief drow goddess of the Abyss.
  • Melf, an elf who violates his queen's isolationist policies to fight wickedness.
  • Mordenkainen the Archmage, leader of the Circle of Eight (one of Gygax's early characters). Mordenkainen is a strong force for neutrality.
  • Nerof Gasgal, the Lord Mayor of Greyhawk, a former thief turned politician.
  • Obmi, a deranged dwarf assassin in the service of Iuz.
  • Rary of Ket, also called Rary the Traitor, a former member of the Circle of Eight.
  • Robilar, an evil warrior allied with Rary who sometimes works with heroes for his own purposes.
  • Saint Kargoth the Betrayer, fallen paladin and Oerth's first death knight.
  • Tenser, another great wizard who actively seeks to rid Oerth of evil. Former member of the Circle of Eight.
  • Vecna, Lord of the Spidered Throne, the Whispered One, god of Secrets and Magic.
  • Yolande, grey elven Queen of the Faerie Kingdom of Celene.
  • Zagyg, the mad but benign archmage who becomes a demi-god (his name is a play on Gygax, the name of the creator of the setting).
  • Zuggtmoy, Demon Queen of Fungi and Blight, imprisoned in her Temple of Elemental Evil.

Publishing history

See also: Greyhawk sources

TSR

TSR published the first Greyhawk product by Gary Gygax and Robert J. Kuntz in 1975 as a supplement booklet to the original Dungeons & Dragons rules. There is no significant campaign setting information in this booklet, however. Instead, the supplement focused on game rules that were used in Gygax's Greyhawk campaign. Many of these new rules became standard parts of the AD&D game, including the thief and paladin classes, 7th, 8th, and 9th level spells, classic monsters such as the beholder, many of the standard magic items, etc.

In 1980 the Greyhawk campaign setting was first publicly detailed in The World of Greyhawk folio, which was superseded by the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting boxed set in 1983.

Beginning in Dragon #30 (October 1979), Gygax began writing a periodic column called "From the Sorcerer's Scroll." This series provided additional background for the Greyhawk setting, focusing on the politics of various countries, the individuals who lived there, and other things which brought life to his world.

Between 1978 and 1987, TSR published approximately 30 adventure modules set in the World of Greyhawk. These included three major Greyhawk campaigns, with the Temple of Elemental Evil series (T1-4) being the best known. The Village of Hommlet began players at first level, with successive adventures of increasing difficulty eventually culminating within the temple itself. This campaign would later provide the inspiration for the 2003 Atari PC video game The Temple of Elemental Evil.

Another favorite campaign, A1-4 Scourge of the Slave Lords, developed out of tournament roleplaying games centering around the Slave Lords, a powerful band of pirates and slavers preying upon the Wild Coast. Gygax's own "GDQ" series brought high-level adventurers against bands of ruthless giants, vile underground kuo-toa, and the drow themselves, ending with a confrontation with the Spider Queen, Lolth. All three series have been repackaged as super-modules, while the originals are prized among collectors.

Other notable offerings include the 1988 Greyhawk Adventures hardback book and The City of Greyhawk boxed set from 1989, which expanded on the detail available for the city for the second edition D&D rules, supplementing the World of Greyhawk boxed set.

While the World of Greyhawk is primarily serious in its scope, one "joke" module, WG7 - Castle Greyhawk includes many references to 20th-century culture, such as characters named "King Burger" and "General Public," as well as "B-Men" monsters that are half-hornet and half-government agent. Other Greyhawk modules such as Dungeonland and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks borrow themes from Lewis Carroll and science fiction respectively.

The Greyhawk Wars period

In 1987, TSR began to emphasize the Forgotten Realms setting, with progressively fewer modules and sourcebooks for Greyhawk - this was regarded by critics as an effort to undermine Greyhawk in order to reduce royalty payments to Gary Gygax. In 1991, however, TSR published the Greyhawk Wars boxed set, followed up by From the Ashes in 1992. These boxed sets detailed the epic Greyhawk Wars between the forces of good and evil in the Flanaess and have a darker tone than previous publications for the setting. These were followed by a series of sourcebooks and adventures by Carl Sargent including The Marklands (detailing the beleaguered Kingdoms of Furyondy and Nyrond), Iuz the Evil and City of Skulls (the latter two dealing with the Empire of Iuz).

This series was soon halted, however, when in 1993 TSR cancelled Sargent's sourcebook on the Great Kingdom, Ivid the Undying, prior to publication. Greyhawk would not return to publication thereafter until 1998, following the acquisition of TSR by Wizards of the Coast.

Wizards of the Coast

Since Wizards of the Coast (WotC) purchased TSR and the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, they have focused mainly on the Forgotten Realms and Eberron campaign settings. In 1998, however, an attempt was made to revive the World of Greyhawk with the release of Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins sourcebook. This publication advanced the timeline of the World of Greyhawk by six years. The Adventure Begins was followed up by a series of modules and sourcebooks that included The Player's Guide to Greyhawk, The Scarlet Brotherhood and others that detailed sites close to the Free City of Greyhawk.

In addition, between 1998 and 2002 WotC released several adventures and novels linked to some of the earliest and most popular Greyhawk modules. The new adventures included Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Slavers (linked to the original Slave Lords series), Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff, Return to White Plume Mountain, and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. (See below for a list of the novels of this period). The relaunch failed to sufficiently revive the World of Greyhawk's commercial fortunes and the series was discontinued.

From 2001 to the present, the primary sources of official Greyhawk-specific materials therefore have been articles in Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine. A fair amount of fan fiction is also published. Additionally, since 2000 there have been a limited number of third-party licensed offerings including the aforementioned Atari PC computer game and comic books from Kenzer & Company and Iron Hammer Graphics.

In August 2007, Wizards released Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, a "super-module" that visited both the Free City of Greyhawk and the ruins of Castle Greyhawk. It was the first official WOTC Greyhawk material released (outside of the Living Greyhawk Campaign and a handful of updated modules on the Wizards website) since 2002.

Greyhawk today

Currently, the World of Greyhawk is the basis for the "core setting" for WotC-published Dungeons & Dragons. "Core setting" materials that subtly include Greyhawk history have proved popular and Wizards of the Coast continues to produce books in that vein. For example, the first of their Fiendish Codex Series, Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, tangentially refers to some of the history of the interaction and conflict between the World of Greyhawk and the abyssal planes and the demons and demon princes that populate them. There have been no Greyhawk "setting books" since the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer.

From 2001 to the present, the primary sources of official Greyhawk-specific materials therefore have been articles in Dungeon and Dragon magazines. A fair amount of fan fiction is also published. Additionally, since 2000 there have been a limited number of third-party licensed offerings including the aforementioned Atari PC computer game and comic books from Kenzer & Company and Iron Hammer Graphics.

Greyhawk remains popular with gamers. Other D&D campaign worlds have borrowed numerous ideas from Greyhawk. However, the setting retains a unique flavor that hews closest to the motifs and themes that dominated the early days of the games as well as a huge assortment of gods and mortals developed over the decades that the setting has existed. The continued popularity of Dungeon adventures set in Greyhawk attest to its longevity.

For example, Adventure Paths published by Dungeon magazine starting in 2004 were set in the World of Greyhawk by default, and have built a new chapter in the history of the setting. These campaigns are published as 11-12 individual adventures in Dungeon, the first of which, Shackled City, has been collected as a single book. The adventures have focused on the less developed regions of the Flanaess, but have included a number of well-known items and personalities from the history of Greyhawk (especially in the second Adventure Path, Age of Worms).

In Dungeon's sister publication, Dragon, there were two series that contained Greyhawk setting information. The first is Demonomicon of Iggwilv which details the demon lords of the setting's Abyss. The second is Core Beliefs which details the deities of the core setting, but includes many details that are Greyhawk-specific. The Demonomicon series continues in the new digital version of Dragon but, since the advent of the 4th edition of the Dungeons & Dragons game, by default it now refers to the 4th edition core setting rather than Oerth.

Fiction

Spurred on by the success of the Dragonlance novels during the mid 1980s, two separate Greyhawk series appeared, penned by Rose Estes and Gary Gygax himself. The latter author's more popular series, beginning with Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil, focuses on Gord, a rogue from Greyhawk. After leaving TSR in 1986, Gygax continued the Gord series with an independent publisher for a number of years.

Estes took over the TSR series at this point, introducing new characters and going in a different direction than Gygax's independent series. Estes' novels were not completely consistent with the game rules in force at the time, featuring such disallowed combinations as dwarven wizards. The Estes novels also diverged from the setting storyline presented in adventure modules and game sourcebooks. For example, Iuz is slain early on in the Estes series of novels, whereas he remains a primary political force in other TSR products from the period such as Howl from the North and Greyhawk Wars.

Short Stories

  • "At Moonset Blackcat Comes" (Dragon #100, 1985) by Gary Gygax.
  • "Evening Odds" by Gary Gygax (appears in Pawn of Chaos, edited by Ed Kramer, published by White Wolf, 1999).
  • "The Return of Gord" (Dragon #344, 2006) by Gary Gygax and K.R. Bourgoine.

Novels

Adventures Series

Classics Series

Gord the Rogue

Comics

Bibliography

External links

  • Greyhawk Apocrypha – Unpublished and supplemental information from notable Greyhawk authors and editors.

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