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    Canonfire :: View topic - Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence
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    Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence
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    Adept Greytalker

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    Sat Mar 15, 2008 3:44 pm  
    Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence

    Hello All,

    I have been reading lots of threads comparing various campaigns and something struck me. I cannot give a new player 5 bullet points that capture the essence of what Greyhawk is and what makes it different from other settings.

    So, here is my challenge to myself and this list, if we distill the basic elements of the Greyhawk campaign down to its primal essence, what are the 5 key concepts* that are left behind.

    The five concepts should be descriptive but short, in essence bullet points that brings the point home. Strunk and White is your friend.

    They should be evocative of the setting and not ubiquitous to D&D in general or a rule set specifically.

    They most certainly should not be shtick of another setting (or gods forbid shtick it does better than Greyhawk).

    Basically, if I was selling someone on the Greyhawk setting would the 5 points we come up with entice someone to check the setting out.

    Thanks,

    Bryan Blumklotz
    AKA Saracenus

    * I am limiting this to 5 because I want say Greyhawk is BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM!
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    Sat Mar 15, 2008 5:06 pm  

    Great idea Sarracenus. Ok,here we go.

    * Greyhawk is a classic. It was created by Gary Gygax, co-creator of D&D. Man, this setting was born with the game!
    * Greyhawk history, geography, religion, NPCs, organizations, monsters, etc. are so rich and detailed, that when you read about them you feel the setting is alive.
    * Greyhawk is rule set independent (IMHO). It doesn't matter which set of rules you use, it's up to the DM to get the most from the setting.
    * Greyhawk is the home of almost all the legendary modules of D&D. Apart from all the canon (whatever that means) material published, there's a lot of fan-made material out there that keeps it alive.
    * Greyhawk is (last but not least) its fans. For a Greyhawker there's nothing better than a fellow Greyhawker (cliché but nontheless true), even if their view of the setting may not be the same.

    Saludos!
    Gabriel
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    Sun Mar 16, 2008 6:07 am  
    Grey in the Hawk

    Dear Greytalkers:

    Wasn't there an article written about this way back, something about the Grey in the Hawk? From the AOL message boards?

    Otto Zequeira
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    Sun Mar 16, 2008 10:37 am  

    Several of the following points are, IMO, essential elements of Greyhawk:

    Shades of Grey: No country or people is entirely good or entirely evil. Evil states like the Aerdi lands have more benevolent traits to them, and more noble segments of society. Good lands like Furyondy and Keoland have their flaws, whether they be subtle racism or the mistreatment of women.

    Moderate power levels: Being 6th, 8th, or 12th level means you stand out right away. Many heads of state and rulers are between 10th and 18th level, and do not have any Epic-level abilities or prestige classes. The few that do, mostly members of the Circle of Eight, are truly legendary characters who inspire awe, respect and terror in their fellows, and should be treated appropriately.

    Anything an NPC can do, a PC can too: NPCs do not have access to special templates or prestige classes that PCs cannot hope to access, nor do they wield exceptional game abilities that no PC can wield. The most determined and skilled PCs can indeed rise to the power levels of Mordenkainen or one of the Greater Boneheart, although it will require a colossal amount of toil, sacrifice and sweat to be able to do so. PCs can become independent lords, craft their own unique magic items, and develop their own special spells and power bases, although it will require a truly heroic effort on their parts.

    Into the Unknown: Only a small part of the world is detailed in canon, and even that canon, as originally conceived by Gary Gygax, was meant to be played around with, ignored, or developed by DMs as they saw fit. Too many Greyhawk fans insist on careful devotion to canon when they could have just as easily made something up for themselves, which IMO is quite unnecessary. If you see something in canon that you don't like, you are in no way required to include it. So many lands, peoples and histories remain as yet undiscovered, waiting for intrepid adventurers like your players to discover them.

    Heroes of legend: Because of the lack of truly epic-level characters in the current setting, Greyhawk offers ample room for your players to become the Flanaess's greatest heroes. There are no canonical heroes casting great shadows over the land, which leaves the door open for your PCs to pass into legend and have the bards sing of their deeds forever more. Mordenkainen and his fellows exist, but they prefer to operate in the background, or are otherwise unknown to the world at large. Greyhawk is, in a sense, virgin territory for your PCs to carve out their own legends and myths.
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    Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:23 am  

    Top o' me heade this St. Patty's Day:

    1) Greyhawk is vastly humanocentric, non-humans play largely peripheral roles in the World of Greyhawk. Human cultures and their histories are more important than races.

    2) Monsters are not usual parts of the civilized/organied societies of Greyhawk's nation states. As exotic as it gets are demi-humans here and there and some humanoids, who are mostly relegated to their own, few nations states - e.g., Celene, Highfolk, the Pomarj etc. There is no nation of monsters and monsters are not guildmasters etc. in Greyhawk's cities with only very rare exceptions - Fiend Sage, few surviving aminus' in the GK, Iuz himself.

    3) Greyhawk is highly political and its politics are dominated by nation states, not organizations. Even the Scarlet Brotherhood has had a nation state as its base, albeit at first "hidden."

    4) Gods and deities are not common adventure generators or villains. Gods keep their distance for the most part with Iuz being the notable exception.

    5) Ruins, specifically dungeon complexes are the primary adventure generators. TOEE, Tsojcanth, Big T's Temple, White Plume Mt., Tomb of Horrors, Castle Greyhawk, Tamoachan, Ghost Tower etc. The classic dungeon is classic GH.

    My two cents.
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    GVD
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    Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:25 pm  

    Definitely agree with GVD's summary. Greyhawk is about its places and about verisimilitude.. it seems like a real world, not a stage for PCs. And that verisimilitude is conveyed with hints and tidbits, not with long tedious exposition. So the DM is free to make what he will of the fact that eastern and western Oeridians have different styles of dress, seemingly have different race relations with the Flan and Suel, and other elements suggestive of cultural differences.

    No individuals tower over the setting despite latter day attempts to make the Circle of Eight into a Harper like group. Its nations and peoples that drive the setting and locales that drive the adventures.
    Master Greytalker

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    Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:53 pm  

    I'll take a shot at this:

    1) A realistic view of the fantastic - Notwithstanding the fact that many unrealistic arguments have been put forth on a myriad of topics, the emphasis in GH has always been the "realistic" interpretation of fantastic events. In other words, politics and the actions of leaders have always been used as the guiding forces behind events rather than the interference of gods, magical "storms", and such similar influences.

    2) A conglomeration of classic themes - Yes, Gygax and others have often been criticized for "borrowing" from other sources. I tend to think this is a positive rather than a negative. GH serves as a showcase for the classic themes of the fantasy genre, and as a result provides an open stage that allows individual DMs and players to incorporate their own themes. GH was designed with the specific intention of providing a framework within which this could happen. The majority of the world is left undeveloped, as is much of the "civilized" portion of the Flanaess. DMs have no difficulty adding their own towns, characters, or even gods, and can do so without fear of destroying or forever altering the setting as published.

    3) An emphasis on the mundane - Related to #1 above, GH tends to place the emphasis on "mundane" events and characters rather than on "fantastic" and seemingly unlikely occurrences. Characters like Iuz, Mordenkainen, et al, with all their power and ability tend to be kept in the background. Events (generally speaking) do not revolve around the manipulations of the super-powerful, but rather focus on the adventures of the PCs. While individual adventures and campaigns might focus on the plots of the powerful, the campaign world itself does not.

    4) An appreciation for tradition and history - A study of GH is, in essence, a study of the history of gaming. In many cases portions of GH lore were written simultaneously with the rules themselves. As D&D grew, GH grew. Even with the advent of 3.5e, the design philosophies and roots of roleplaying can still be seen in most, if not all, GH products and publications. To mention Mordenkainen, Greyhawk City, or even a "fighter" is to make reference to the beginnings of roleplaying, since these and many other GH themes and characters were there from the beginning, having been created as the rules themselves were created.

    5) A dependence on a dedicated and thriving community - Without its fans GH is nothing. More has been published for a myriad of other settings, and yet GH remains as a favorite of gamers the world over. It is the community, with all its diversity, that makes GH great and which has provided the bulk of the material for the setting. In fact, even the last several "official" GH publications could be (arguably) considered as community-created material, given that they were written by GH fans rather than by Gygax or by a corporate team of designers.
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    Wed Mar 19, 2008 8:22 am  

    To All,

    Great posts so far. I am sorry I have not had time to reply in a thoughtful manner.

    Classes are almost done and then NorWesCon this weekend. When I get back I will start going over the entries, making some commentary and adding some of my own ideas.

    Hopefully more people will input some of their thoughts on the subject and there will be an embarrassment of riches for my 5 Greyhawk Bullet Points.

    Thanks,

    Bryan Blumklotz
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    Sat Mar 22, 2008 3:44 pm  
    Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence

    Some further thoughts:

    Anagrams & word games: the magic of words
    Post-Apocalypse from weapons of mass destruction
    Balance: elites holding each other in check
    Declining magic

    Tharizdun
    The genie in the bottle of future mass destruction
    The threat of chaos of elites turning on one another

    Otto Zequeira
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    Sat Mar 22, 2008 5:35 pm  
    Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence

    Castle Greyhawk: inter-genre playfulness

    Otto Z.
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    Sat Mar 22, 2008 6:56 pm  
    Re: Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence

    oteta wrote:
    Castle Greyhawk: inter-genre playfulness

    Otto Z.


    starships
    through the looking glass
    wild west
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    Sat Mar 29, 2008 9:09 am  
    Distilling Greyhawk to its essence

    Here's a link to the Nitescreed essay that I mentioned before, link provided by GreyTalker Chris Anderson.

    http://www.living-dyvers.net/Home/Whatis/tabid/68/Default.aspx

    Hope it's helpful.

    Otto Zequeira
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    Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:00 pm  
    Re: Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence

    Wolfsire wrote:

    starships
    through the looking glass
    wild west


    On another message board there was a recent discussion (they seem to crop up every so often) of what makes Greyhawk distinctive, occasioned by a Wotc designer opining that Greyhawk is not sufficiently distinct from the Realms to be a commercially viable setting, among other reasons.

    I did not say so then, as I don't believe it wise to encourage any official or semi-official interest in Greyhawk at the moment, but Greyhawk's biggest point of departure from the Realms, in hard practicality, is exactly what Wolfsire has pointed out.

    Greyhawk has canonized science-fantasy in Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, even to the point of ascribing the origins of some species to escaped specimens from the crashed starship.

    Greyhawk has canonized a "wild west" sensibility in naming Murlynd a deity dressed like Clint Eastwood and carrying six-shooters.

    EGG did both and it gets no "greyer" than EGG.

    Later writers in Dragon Magazine have expanded on BOTH themes. Two other crash sites for pieces of the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks spaceship have been described. Meanwhile, Paladins of Murlynd not only can use firearms but can produce gunpowder that functions on Oerth without reference to specific deific sanction.

    So, if someone were looking for a "canon" way to clearly, absolutely and unequivocally distinguish GH from FR to even a casual observer science-fantasy and western-fantasy would be two of the most obvious choices.

    The fly in the ointment is that both themes are marginal in terms of GH's development to this point. They are spice, not entre. Making them main course would radically alter the setting. Since I do not trust Wotc to do a good job, the less said on this matter outside this website the better in all likelihood. IMO.
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    GVD
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    Sun Mar 30, 2008 5:36 pm  

    That last bit made me laugh. It’s funny because it’s true. Laughing

    I don’t use any Barrier Peaks tech stuff or gunslingin’ Murlynd worshippers in my campaign, as I see them as being too alien to the feel of the campaign I want to run. My players wouldn’t be too keen on it either. They(and I) want to play in a straight fantasy world- no modern or sci-fi tech whatsoever.

    There really is only one thing that makes Greyhawk different than any other campaign world, and that is the background. The background has its own distinctive feel; its own uniqueness, because it is unique.

    What gives Greyhawk its mystique has nothing to do with it having nations set up in certain political schemes, or having various power groups- all campaigns have that. They all tend to be very different too, which is why the campaigns are distinctive in the first place.

    It reminds me of a comment a friend of mine said to me years ago when he first read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He said "These Lord of the rings book remind me a lot of the Shannara series." After explaining the blasphemy of what he had uttered to him, we talked about the realms of Shannara and Middle Earth. While there may be a few similarities between either characters or places in the story, the worlds themselves are nothing alike. Even the things that are similar are still uniquely and identifiably their own.

    There are really only three main things that make Greyhawk(or any other campaign) unique:

    1. Characters

    2. Organizations

    3. Background

    And if you want to quantify Greyhawk in these three ways you have to do it with a whole book like the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer, rather than make some simple generalization that, in the end, says nothing about Greyhawk, and could be applied to any other campaign world. We’ve already seen this in many threads discussing this topic. Somebody will define some feature that they think is unique to Greyhawk, and then others will come along and give examples of it in every other campaign world. All of the campaign worlds are built on generalizations, but it is in the details that the character of the campaign is seen.
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    Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:17 pm  

    Cebrion wrote:
    All of the campaign worlds are built on generalizations, but it is in the details that the character of the campaign is seen.


    Unfortunately, for the designers at Wotc, who are in good company with the prior designers at TSR, details and generalizations are insufficient because by such measures, in their view, GH is too much the same as FR for GH to be commercially viable. In their view.
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    Sun Mar 30, 2008 6:55 pm  

    Like many I have played in GH from nearly it's first published day. I saw the Realm birth, and played there for a while. To be candid, I enjoyed the Realms in that first boxed set. However, its charm faded quickly, and I remember exactly why. Simply put, it was too perfect. There was no option that was not availale. No race that wasnt' present. The evil was present and evident. There were sunny lands to the south, and a great big desert.

    I always liked Ed Greenwood, and i liked his work in Dragon on the Realms (though i didnt get to read many of them). But there were to many corporate types, to many focus groups involved in the realms, from the very beginning. It was a place designed to play. A smooth, finished product with all the burrs worked out. It was the perfect gaming world. It was utterly unbelieveable.

    Greyhawk was none of these. It was a broken place. Quirky and odd, just like life. Have you ever wondered why people in the Irish Channel of New Orleans sound just like they are from New Jersey? Because they do. Greyhawk is like that, odd and unpredictable. Sometime dislikable. It is not the perfect place to play, and therefore it seems real.

    So, I will take issue with you Cebrion, on the fact that GH is "only," distinctive because of it's background. It's ingrained imperfection, which originates in it's background, but IMO is more important than it's background.

    EGG thought they might sell a few thousand volumes of D&D. I dont think he thought Greyhawk would sell many, and he sure did think we would spend hours discussing it nearly 30 years later. He made it like he wanted it, not like it should have been made.

    That simple fact nearly assures that no other game world will come after it and have the same quality. Every other realm that I have examined or played in (that was not homebrew) lacks that same imperfection. They are hoping so sell tens of thousands, and therefore want them to be perfect. That is the difference to me.
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    Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:58 am  
    Re: Distilling Greyhawk To Its Essence

    I would like to modify a little the idea of Balance in Greyhawk as part of its uniqueness:

    Balance as elites maintaining order

    In "A People's History of the United States", Howard Zinn argues that the American, two-party system was created to give people the appearance of choice.

    The idea of the Balance in Greyhawk could reflect that idea in our culture, of a shadowy elite playing people against each other.

    Otto Zequeira
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    Wed Apr 02, 2008 11:23 pm  

    Nah. The RPG based on Moorcock's Elric of Melnibone beats the snot out of Greyhawk with regard to the importance/uniqueness of "The Balance". The idea of "The Balance" is much more unique to Moorcocks's multiverse. The concept is really only upheld in Greyhawk by druids and the Cirlce of Eight, and many of their motives for doing so are questionable.
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    Last edited by Cebrion on Tue Apr 08, 2008 2:38 am; edited 1 time in total
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    Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:21 pm  

    An interesting thread...

    Firstly, it's been revealed at I-Con that Greyhawk will see support in 4th edition. Now it's just a matter of when. Happy

    As I see it, Greyhawk's main strengths lie in the fact that they have the most recognizable adventure locales in the game. Even if you've never played in the setting, you'll recognize the Temple of Elemental Evil, Against the Giants, Vault of the Drow, Isle of Dread, etc...

    Greyhawk also has, by far, the most impressive array of powerful villains in a setting - Iggwilv, Vecna, Kas, Graz'zt, St. Kargoth, Acererak, Iuz, Lord Robilar (sorta), Eclavdra, Lolth, the Princes of Elemental Evil, Fraz'Urb'Luu, Tuerny the Merciless, Kyuss, Tharizdun, the Queen of Chaos & Miska the Wolf-Spider. They just need to be better leveraged in the setting.

    The setting also has the most recognizable artifacts and relics in the game, which in turn provide all sorts of adventure possiblities. Hand & Eye of Vecna, Sword of Kas, Rod of Seven Parts, Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Mighty Servant of Luek-O, Codex of the Infinite Planes., The Iron Flask of Tuerny the Merciless, Daoud's Wondrous Lanthorn, Fragarach and the Swords of Answering, The Crook of Rao...

    Another real strength of the setting has been touched on earlier, and that is there are few recognizable & powerful "good" NPCs to get in the heroes way. Most of reoccuring, influential NPCs are neutrals, which is perfect for the setting.
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    Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:31 pm  

    Akoss wrote:
    Firstly, it's been revealed at I-Con that Greyhawk will see support in 4th edition. Now it's just a matter of when.


    Someone actually said that? Officially?

    Excuse me. I need to go throw up a little...
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    Mon Apr 07, 2008 8:39 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    Akoss wrote:
    Firstly, it's been revealed at I-Con that Greyhawk will see support in 4th edition. Now it's just a matter of when.


    Someone actually said that? Officially?

    According to a gamer who was there, yes.

    And apparently Dragonlance is on the "short list" of settings to get an update as well (FR & Eberron already being announced). They also reiterated their intention to do one setting per year.

    Quote:
    Excuse me. I need to go throw up a little...

    Even if you're not excited by the prospect, I'm sure they'll be something worth taking out of it for your own game...
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    Mon Apr 07, 2008 9:02 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    Someone actually said that [Greyhawk is being considered for a 4e setting]? Officially?

    Excuse me. I need to go throw up a little...


    Now bubba, you know that FR is first out the gate this year, Eberron is in 2009, so that means that the soonest we would see 4e Greyhawk is 2010. Figure that Dragonlance is a contender for the 3rd slot so maybe you won't see it until 2011.

    That means you got 2-3 years to get your 4e writing chops established with WotC so you can write it rather than joe-WotC. I will bet once the 4e system is out there they are going to rely on freelancers more and more again as the years progress.

    My Two Coppers,

    Bryan Blumklotz
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    Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:06 am  

    GVD wrote:
    Unfortunately, for the designers at Wotc, who are in good company with the prior designers at TSR, details and generalizations are insufficient because by such measures, in their view, GH is too much the same as FR for GH to be commercially viable. In their view.


    Well, we all know that their point of view is a load of crap/spin, chummy TSR designers or no. If such were the case there would not have been a Forgotten Realms campaign in the first place either. Yeah, Greyhawk is way too similar to the Forgotten Realms. That is of course like saying "Sorry Mr. Tolkien, we'd really like to re-publish your books about hobbits and such, but they are just waaay too similar to the Iron Tower Trilogy. Sorry old man, but we'll just have to pass on it. Nobody will buy it." Wink

    The EGG factor obviously weighed in heavily on the decision to run with the Forgotten Realms over Greyhawk, as it really did provide a clean slate to move on from. The similarlity no doubt helped in launching the Forgotten Realms. I know lots of people who bought into it. Its's a decent enough campaign world no doubt, but there are a few things about it I just don't care for. Some of these things have leaked into the latter Greyhawk products, which is a good insight into the authors' understanding, or lack thereof, of what the World of Greyhawk is all about.
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    Thu Apr 10, 2008 5:39 pm  

    Quote:
    Saracenus
    Now bubba, you know that FR is first out the gate this year, Eberron is in 2009, so that means that the soonest we would see 4e Greyhawk is 2010. Figure that Dragonlance is a contender for the 3rd slot so maybe you won't see it until 2011.

    At the very least, it would give someone time to absorb the Castle Zagyg material by EGG, which I am sure will be drawn out as much as possible.

    For me, GH is the birthplace of all that followed it. It was the start of my gameworld. As FR, Mystera & Krynn popped up, their planets soon found a home in my multiverse. I was using things like Spelljammers before it became a boxed set. But GH was the launching pad. GH somehow made it easy to incorporate so much other material, original and borrowed from books, etc... Probably because it didn't lay everything out to the DM & player. It demanded you improvise and be imaginative.

    Ciao,
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    Fri Apr 11, 2008 6:36 pm  

    bubbagump wrote:
    Akoss wrote:
    Firstly, it's been revealed at I-Con that Greyhawk will see support in 4th edition. Now it's just a matter of when.


    Someone actually said that? Officially?

    Excuse me. I need to go throw up a little...


    Ugh. Mad 4e Greyhawk is an oxymoron, that cannot but be moronic, given 4e's "in name only" claim to the D&D mantle. Mad 4e GH will spin EGG in his grave. Mad
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    Fri Apr 11, 2008 7:47 pm  

    Don't panic. "Support" probably translates to "an article or two in the Digital Dragon before 5E rolls arount". Laughing

    If anybody has an official quote, its context, and the identity of the speaker, it would be very useful.

    Denis, aka "Maldin"
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    Fri Apr 11, 2008 9:53 pm  

    GVDammerung wrote:
    Ugh. Mad 4e Greyhawk is an oxymoron, that cannot but be moronic, given 4e's "in name only" claim to the D&D mantle. Mad 4e GH will spin EGG in his grave. Mad


    Ok guys, lets end the threadjack. We all know that WotC controls the IP to Greyhawk so that is out of our hands. Besides I have seen the future and 4e is the least of your worries, direct from pre-launch in 2015, I present to you...



    The topic on this thread is what are the 5 bullet points you can give to a new player that best distinguishes Greyhawk from all the other settings. If you want to rant about WotC and 4e Greyhawk, there is the 4e forum for that.

    Thanks,

    Bryan Blumklotz
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    Wed Apr 16, 2008 9:09 am  

    I was reading today that Microsoft will replace Windows Vista with Windows 7 in 2010. With such a short turn around time and mindful that Vista has been much criticized, I think it safe to say that Vista has not succeeded perhaps as well as Microsoft had hoped.

    Replace Vista with 4e and Windows 7 with 5e.

    Point is I think Greyhawk may be able to skip 4e entirely because 4e won't be around for very long.
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    Wed Apr 16, 2008 8:58 pm  

    There are not 5 bullet points, only two:

    *Background

    *Characters

    Of course, to really make either of those mean anything with respect to Greyhawk, you need to fully expand/explain them.

    The answer to the question "What makes Greyhawk unique?" is literally "The characters and background of Greyhawk make it unique."

    Every campaign does have minor unique features, but you seem to want 5 examples that are pervasive and affectively represent Greyhawk in a definitive way. The only problem is that there aren't any. Even Tharizdun, while relatively unique, has no pervading influence on Greyhawk. He's nothing more than a boogeyman. You really have to start playing the "whit if" game with regard to Tharizdun("But what if Tharizdun escaped, even in a diminished capacity?") and other things, and that is pointless to begin with.
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    Wed Apr 16, 2008 11:11 pm  

    1. The world of Dungeons and Dragons in which the creator, Gary Gygax provided the necessary world setting information, intentionally leaving the details to the players and DMs to spur imaginations and create a uniqueness between Greyhawk worlds.

    2. A world setting that takes place within the equivelant of the dark to middle ages which houses many political bodies as nations and free cities.

    3. A world particlarly known for it instantly popular and classical adventures.

    4. A world which served as the guidline and bar for all D&D worlds to follow.

    5. A world that has such strong continual fan support that its owning companies (TSR and WOTC) cannot deny its popularity for over 3-4 decades (ex. sites like Canonfire and Oerth Journal, constantly returning to the pages of Dragon Magazine, supposedly the 3.0 default world).

    6. Most importantly, Greyhawk has Eileen of Greyhawk, Prophet of Istus, Messenger of the Gods in it! Happy
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    Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:05 pm  

    GreyHawk is :

    1) realistic fantasy. GreyHawk deals with known background to most of us ( ie middle ages - dark & upper ) mixed with "real" magic.

    2) background history. How events on local and major scales shaped the world : rises and falls of empires, wars, migrations of peoples, etc...

    3) geo-political. GreyHawk is not about legendary NPCs and/or "powerful yet hidden societies with world takeover agendas". GreyHawk is about peoples and alliances/conflicts between nations or regions.

    4) individual freedom. PC can be drawn in major events of worldly consequences or they can go unoticed in some remote lost and forgotten dungeon killing monsters and plundering lairs. But since even in major events, it usually is nations that are involved and not major NPCs (so no "canon" conflict). Who participate in the event is not really important. The event in itself is.

    5) open possibilites. Most of GreyHawk has not been fully designed. It is not "carved into stone". GreyHawk is mostly sketches ans so far as I know, it what EGG wanted it to be.

    and last but not necessarily least but off-limit :
    6) GreyHawk was the first setting. And it bears in spite of all its unique flavor and freshness

    Long Live GreyHawk
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    Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:02 am  

    Cebrion wrote:
    There are not 5 bullet points, only two:

    *Background

    *Characters


    I'd have to agree with that summation. All you really have to say to your players is:-

    Background ~ "This is where it all began, the original campaign world ~ why wouldn't you want to play here?"

    Characters ~ Add in the fact that they can interact with legends like Mordenkainen, Tenser, Robilar, et al, and become heroes or even kings (or anti-heroes and despots, if that's their thing Cool ), and shape the world around them by their very actions...

    Then it's an easy sell. If they still don't buy into it, they're in the wrong game.
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    Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:30 am  

    I agree with the above, Background and Character interaction/PC ability to shape the world's progress.

    I would also add that the world beyond the Flanaess has almost limitless potential for expansion.

    --Telemachus
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    Wed Apr 23, 2008 8:42 am  

    Quote:
    Add in the fact that they can interact with legends like Mordenkainen, Tenser, Robilar, et al [...]


    Yes they can but it is not necessary, unlike FR setting if playing on an Epic scale. Nonetheless if players want to shape the Oerth as you put it ( either in Good or Evil), they will likely interact with them, even if vicariously.

    But since it NOT a necessary element, players can still have fun playing in GreyHawk without legendary figures, why should they be in the wrong game ?

    Even FR setting has background, due to setting books and novels but you cannot say it lacks of it ( that's there is too much perhaps ).

    Characters : too few or too much ? Again, the FR setting is overcrowded with powerful NPCs but it is certainly not short of them.
    The main difference in GreyHawk is that legendary figures work in shadows and do not rule entire lands or kingdoms. They give space for PC to move around.

    I agree with Saracemus about giving Five reasons to explain why GH is unique. Two are too restrictive but also too blurry.
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    Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:13 pm  

    A little more on 4e Greyhawk from this thread: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1022209 on the Wizard's board where a poster by the name of Tanus gleaned some info at the GAMA tradeshow.

    Quote:
    Bill Slavicsek mentioned those by name as what we'd see after Forgotten Realms and Eberron were out. Greyhawk is a definate, he said they were working on the books for it, and Dark Sun is one that he mentioned "we would see down the line". I don't know if he slipped up or if he wasn't 100% sure, but he sounded pretty confident.


    From what we'd heard at I-CON, we knew it was coming... but now we know it's already be in the works, so there's a good chance it'll be next in line and roll out int 2010! Happy
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    Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:59 pm  

    Well, I've been a bit harsh on this subject I must say. While there really are only two things that differentiate a campaign, it certainly is possible to choose 5 things that quantify Greyhawk. Those things might not be exactly unique to Greyhawk, but they are just features of it. I think the problem I have is with pointing out five descriptive things about Greyhawk that are specifically unique to it, and it alone(as there really aren't any). Perhaps you noticed my fixation on these points being UNIQUE; maybe not. Well, as that really isn’t possible, and that really doesn’t seem to be the point Saracenus is pursing, I’ll quit being a schmuck and add something here.

    So, the main goal then is to choose the right 5 things that stand out the most about Greyhawk. In that vein, here is a list of a few options to discuss:

    1. Greyhawk is an Alpha Campaign(yes! It really is! Laughing ). Even with its introduction in the original Folio form as a supposedly complete product, it was an unfinished product- the Baklunish didn’t even have a full listing of their gods(among other things)! Not quite half-assed, but not quite full-assed either. Happy We have this admission from THE MAN himself, so I’ll take him at his word. Other campaign worlds do not suffer from this much, if at all, having been engineered fully from the ground up with regards to all of the basic information contained in their main campaign setting books. On the up-side though, Greyhawk’s missing bits within the main area of the campaign- the Flanaess- is ripe for development by all, unlike most other campaigns’ main areas which have been laid out in more detail. Even though many blanks have been filled in over the years(up to and including the LGG), there is still much in just the Flanaess that remains to be covered.

    2. Greyhawk has a “sword & sorcery” level of magic, meaning that the sword balances out the magic so to speak. It also means that really powerful magic originates from either ancient civilizations, god-like beings, or a very few, very powerful individuals. People don’t walk around with glowing swords; mages are rare and generally feared(because they can lay waste to a small village in less than a minute single-handedly with but a few gestures), and powerful clerics do not abound to heal the grievously injured, as is evidenced by some of the very wealthy NPCs in GH who have injuries that could be cured by such magic, or the inability to find lost personages or simply raise/resurrect them. Yes, even wealthy and powerful people get hurt and die in Greyhawk. The above average mage cannot level a castle though, and the above average cleric cannot cure a plague that has taken hold of a community. The main point of all this is that, yes, regular people who can’t wield magic are still very important to the everyday goings on in the World of Greyhawk, and in fact they have much more of an overall impact on the world that those who use even powerful magic.

    3. While published Greyhawk material almost completely focuses on the Flanaess, which is the eastern half of two conjoined continents, this is not the extent of the campaign world by a long shot. A full global map of Oerth and its continents/lands was included in the original Folio booklets, and the areas covered by it and even later products do not touch on the vast majority of the lands that cover the surface of Oerth. Other than the Flanaess, these outlands are completely up for grabs. Two efforts(and poor ones at that) sought to expand into these land- one being just a map with rather uninventive names for the outlands on it; the other being a pigeon-holed batch of material aimed more at making a miniature combat game with blatantly different factions rather than with the aim of creating sensible additions to a campaign world and then populating it with factions that made sense. Surely somebody can do a better job of it. That somebody could be you, me, or whoever.

    Heck, I’m outta gas. Somebody else do the last two.

    And yes, I chucked the short and succinct bit right out the window Saracenus. Just see the bold print for the bulltet points. Consider the rest "descriptive discussion" of said points. Wink
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    Thu Apr 24, 2008 7:56 am  

    I have to diagree with the statement that Greyhawk is in the "Sword and Sorcery" genre.

    Magic is a major and active force in the world. It is true that there are not many mages at higher levels, but I equate that to the fact that gaining levels at a fast pace is only possible if the PC is an adventurer, and being an adventurer is very dangerous for mages; many do not survive. This is why though most communities have arcane spellcasters of a low or mid level, these persons spend their entire lives getting this far due to the smaller chance for experience progression that a "domesticated" life brings.

    As for the fact that many rich NPCs have permanent scars or other afflictions, we always had a house rule in our campaigns which stated that if you died, even if broght back to life there would be some kind of a permanent scar or such; the DM left this to the player to devise and it actually worked out well. This was an extension of the 1e constitution loss for being resurrected/raised. Also remember that in 1e there was a chance that one could not be resurrected based upon constitution; The higher your constitution the better chance of being brought back to life. It may be that clerical healing can cure minor (non deadly) wounds to 100%, but anything more traumatic causes a definite permanent change to one's body.

    Just a few thoughts on the subject,

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    Thu Apr 24, 2008 7:42 pm  

    You are thinking too much in game terms. The reason there are so few powerful mages is not because a mage living in a village has fewer chances to gain xp, but because the mage remains in that village in the first place. The reason this mage and most others are not high level badasses is that most people are not crazy enough(ie. adventurers) to purposely seek out and fight stuff that may kill them. They have plenty of things to do in their normal lives, like raise food, run a home, etc. Let's face it, wealthy mages don't have to worry about those things but your average rural hedge mage does.

    And magic does not permeate Greyhawk such that it is everywhere, and a such factor of everyone's daily lives such that people are non-chalant about it. You don't see people walking down the street using cantrips for fun, or using them to clean their homes or mend damaged goods. While there is magic in the world, it is certainly not that omnipresent. Everyone is not an adventurer; everyone doesn't even have a level of experience. You would be lucky to find even 1 in 100 people who know how to use any magic. Over time, Greyhawk has become more of a high magic campaign, as people forget what it was supposed to be about, which is exactly the points I outlined: "It also means that really powerful magic originates from either ancient civilizations, god-like beings, or a very few, very powerful individuals."

    But you do have a point. Maybe I should say Greyhawk had a Sword & Sorcery level of magic, or at least it did until other authors came along and added floating cities and an entire island chain encompassing hundreds(maybe thousands) of square miles of territory surrounded by magical mists(among other things). As you can imagine, I either downplay or outright ignore this added content as the authors seem to have had no clue as to what they were doing to the concept of magic in Greyhawk while they were creating their material.
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    Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:13 pm  

    Galencudin wrote:
    Quote:
    Add in the fact that they can interact with legends like Mordenkainen, Tenser, Robilar, et al [...]


    Yes they can but it is not necessary, unlike FR setting if playing on an Epic scale. Nonetheless if players want to shape the Oerth as you put it ( either in Good or Evil), they will likely interact with them, even if vicariously.

    But since it NOT a necessary element, players can still have fun playing in GreyHawk without legendary figures, why should they be in the wrong game ?

    The emphasis in my original post was on "can". Of course it isn't necessary, and perhaps it does not apply to everyone, but those names/personages have enjoyed the greatest renown in D&D for over 30 years now, and to many people that is a huge draw. Gamers can of course still enjoy GreyHawk without acknowledging it's background and characters, but - imho - they are missing embracing arguably the richest D&D gaming history if they do so.
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    Fri Apr 25, 2008 7:48 am  

    I do have to say Cebrion that although I do not think of Greyhawk as "Sword and Sorcery" I agree that magic is not and should not be on every street corner. The reason for magic getting out of hand in what has been written and published is due to the emergence of Monty Hall campaigns in the 1980s.

    I like 3/3.5e except that magic items are too plentiful. I do not agree with the purchasing of magic items as a standard practice. It is ok on rare occassions to allow the purchase of something here or there (better yet tie a quest to the purchase price). I believe in one of Gygax's writings (maybe original DMG?) he made mention that characters should not be decorated like Christmas trees with magic items. The idea that PCs should have x amount in magic and treasure dependent upon character level removes the DM responsibility of maintaining campaign balance.

    I also do not think it can be contested that although magic is powerful in "present day" Greyhawk, it is only a shadow of its former power (The Invoked Devastation and Rain of Colorless Fire amongst other people, places and events, all well in the past provide conclusive evidence of this).

    My view of Sword and Sorcery is one of Conan and Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and other stories on this level. With regard to magic levels in these books I believe Greyhawk to have more magical influence.
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    Fri Apr 25, 2008 9:47 pm  

    The Fafhrd and the Gary Mouser stories are a very good example of Greyhawk's magic level, while the Conan stories are not quite right. Lanhkmar is pretty much the model for Greyhawk, but the Blue Box really put a damper on this with its Candyland maps(the maps are very prettily and nicely drawn, but they do not reflect the urban sprawl that Greyhawk City is) and its emphasis on the presence of so many good things(temples & NPCs), and not enough emphasis on the fact that Greyhawk is a city ruled by cutthroat thieves and others of the neutral and evil alignments. I know more than a few people who pretty much tossed out most of the Blue Box material, and replaced in with the appropriate City of Lanhkmar material. Add in the 3.x rules and the much heavier emphasis on the assumed presence of magic items, and the world itself is altered even more if dm's let it become that way, an most did by following the example of the material published for the game edition. But, I will say that Greyhawk does have ever so slightly more magic present than Newhon, but not by a lot. On the scale of magic, Greyhawk falls in between a Sword & Sorcery(Newhon) magic level and a High Magic level(Eberron or FR and then some), but Greyhawk leans very much more towards a Sword & Sorcery magic level. Many people’s campaigns do not emphasize this well, as the level of magic present among adventurers leaks over into the perception of what is present in everyday society(like the more bureaucratic counterparts of PCs).
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    Sat Apr 26, 2008 1:14 am  

    Cebrion wrote:
    The Fafhrd and the Gary Mouser stories are a very good example of Greyhawk's magic level, while the Conan stories are not quite right. Lanhkmar is pretty much the model for Greyhawk.

    <SNIP>Stuff on evil and gritty, that's a different conversation</SNIP>

    Add in the 3.x rules and the much heavier emphasis on the assumed presence of magic items, and the world itself is altered even more if dm's let it become that way, an most did by following the example of the material published for the game edition.

    But, I will say that Greyhawk does have ever so slightly more magic present than Newhon, but not by a lot. On the scale of magic, Greyhawk falls in between a Sword & Sorcery(Newhon) magic level and a High Magic level(Eberron or FR and then some), but Greyhawk leans very much more towards a Sword & Sorcery magic level. Many people’s campaigns do not emphasize this well, as the level of magic present among adventurers leaks over into the perception of what is present in everyday society(like the more bureaucratic counterparts of PCs).


    Cebrion,

    I believe you when you say that Greyhawk was intended as mid-level magic world. It wasn't low magic (Iron Heroes, Conan) or High Magic (FR, Eberron).

    But there was a strange tension between the mundane faux-middle ages setting and the powerful magic items (and casters) that were found in the original adventures in the setting (T1, A1-4, G1-3, D1-3, the S series, etc.).

    On the one hand Gary was coming from the simulation world of historical miniatures which colored his view of his world. On the other he was trying to escape the straight jacket of "history says."

    So you get a game world that doesn't explain where all that magic comes from, its just there to be found or maybe you can trade for it (at a supreme disadvantage). Not a lot of thought was put into how magic would effect the world. If PCs could purchase magic it would quickly unbalance the game. It would also distort the faux-middle ages trappings of Greyhawk.

    The best example of this was the highly magical drow that you encounter in G3 and later in D1-3. The only way to keep the PCs from taking their mad loot was to make the magic vulnerable when taken out of the underdark setting. This was a hand wave to how "high magic" in Greyhawk could be kept from infecting everything.

    It is my contention that it wasn't 3e that suddenly changed everything over to FR style magic, that was already in the setting but constrained by play style traditions of earlier editions and some rules mechanics.

    With the advent of 3e and Living Greyhawk a legion of people were exposed to Greyhawk without those traditions and rules that assumed everyone would have magic by 5th level. That combination was never reconciled in LG, we just said you were able to purchase magic between adventures but never figured out who was making the magic and who was selling it, it was all done off stage unless the maker in question was a major plot point in the adventure.

    Frankly everything I have heard about 4e makes me think that it will be the first edition to really support the idea mid-level magic world you envision for Greyhawk because the PCs abilities will be more important than a magic item to chart that PC's effectiveness.

    Right now I have ignored the issue of magic marts and scarcity for my 3.5 campaign because it gets in the way of my players having fun (I am teaching them the rules and encouraging them to push the edge of them as a learning exercise).

    So, in conclusion I think that Greyhawk's magic level is a mess. I will probably keep hand waving it if I continue with 3e and reconceptualize it in 4e if I convert.

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    Sun Apr 27, 2008 1:02 am  

    It isn't specifically just 3e+ though that changed the presence of magic again- it just helped nudge it further in a different direction. As you point out, magic was different due to other rules mechanics in 2e and earlier. That is my point exactly. Over the changing rules editions(and all of the varied product releases for them, and not just Greyhawk releases), the assumed role of magic has changed as well. I guess we are pretty much on the same page there.

    I can see why you'd open up magic for beginners though. I think that most people do that.
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    Sun Apr 27, 2008 4:13 pm  

    Telemachus wrote:
    I have to diagree with the statement that Greyhawk is in the "Sword and Sorcery" genre.


    I absolutely agree. GH may have been _INFLUENCED_ by S&S, particularly Lankhmar, but as it came out of the oven it is NOT S&S as that term defines a literary genre. That is not GH's fault but D&D's fault. D&D is teeming with so much magic, so many monsters and so much treasure to be harvested by PCs that the S&S model is exploded, leaving a recognizable "blood splatter" pattern but nothing more.
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    Sun Apr 27, 2008 4:20 pm  

    Akoss wrote:
    A little more on 4e Greyhawk from this thread: http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?t=1022209 on the Wizard's board where a poster by the name of Tanus gleaned some info at the GAMA tradeshow.

    Quote:
    Bill Slavicsek mentioned those by name as what we'd see after Forgotten Realms and Eberron were out. Greyhawk is a definate, he said they were working on the books for it, and Dark Sun is one that he mentioned "we would see down the line". I don't know if he slipped up or if he wasn't 100% sure, but he sounded pretty confident.


    From what we'd heard at I-CON, we knew it was coming... but now we know it's already be in the works, so there's a good chance it'll be next in line and roll out int 2010! Happy


    Oh great. Sad 4e GH. Mad I shall look forward to "reviewing" these products . . . energetically . . . and posting those reviews . . . everywhere. Of course, I will have need to comment on 4e at the same time. Or earlier. "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" I guess I'm going to find out. Mad
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    Sun Apr 27, 2008 6:02 pm  

    GVDammerung wrote:
    Oh great. Sad 4e GH. Mad I shall look forward to "reviewing" these products . . . energetically . . . and posting those reviews . . . everywhere. Of course, I will have need to comment on 4e at the same time. Or earlier. "How much wood could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck wood?" I guess I'm going to find out. Mad

    I know that 4e GH can be a bit of contentious issue on this board, but I have to admit this news has made Akoss a very happy camper indeed... Cool

    Even if you don't use it wholesale, I'm sure they'll be things you can prune from it for your own game (stat blocks, magic items, etc.). I also noticed that Mike Mearls has just started up his own GH game so it's a fair bet he'll have some involvement in this.
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    Mon Apr 28, 2008 8:35 am  

    I have found this whole discussion on magic levels and the comparability between Greyhawk and Sword and Sorcery literature to have been quite useful and enlightening.
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