I have glanced through the site on Wizards and I don't really recognize what I see as the classic Greyhawk Campaign. All the names are the same but the world has shifted underneath my feet.
I find that Greyhawk has shifted from a heroic Campaign setting where players can grow to be mighty by delving discovering the secrets of the world they live in to a more porriage fantasy setting.
Recently, I had a chance to talk with Gygax about this and he agreed that the new Greyhawk is nothing like he envisioned. (His vision are contained within the first two Gord books) Where High Fantasy intermengled with Pulp Sword & Sorcery adventure that often was highly localized but had Oerth-wide consquences as the adventurers advanced in levels.
I can't sell you on the LG campaign, but there's nothing wrong with using it as source material for a home campaign.
From what I've seen, the LG stuff is very choppy and episodic, and each module feels like a convention module - railroady, nearly random combinations of critters, utterly forgettable antagonists, and very little room for creativity on the players part.
However, the source material is good if you agree with the Greyhawk Wars and aftermath. I run a GH game using the d20 v3.5 rules, and we use a lot of LG stuff in it (Dragon Magazine regional feats, LG deity lists, LGG as sourcebook, etc).
I also pare out some of the sillier stuff (classes are SRD-only, but I allow additional material on a case-by-case basis). You definitely have to make it yours.
The best thing I can say about LG is that you can always find a game, no matter where you are, and the interactives are supposed to be a lot of fun.
I am not sure, I do like some of the changes the Wars wrought but for the most part, I have ignored the Border changes that have been proposed. I mainly take the idea from the Wars that Iuz has now awoken from a slumber and the forces of good must be on a retreat.
I don't like alot of the War changes either which is why I'm running a campaign that starts in 576. The way I'm looking at it I may use the events leading up into the war but nothing is written in stone and though I'm guiding the fates of the characters as much as any DM will you never know what's going to happen.
Despite all that I've found alot of the material written for the post-War GH to be very worthwhile and useful in developing my version of GH. This includes some LG material.
As someone who started playing Living Greyhawk (LG) at its launch of at GenCon 2000 I can tell you first hand that if you are seeking a Gygaxian Greyhawk, then LG is not for you. If you are a hardcore "Canonista" LG is most definitely not for you.
Here are a few things about LG:
REGIONAL Vs. CORE LG
Your play experience will vary depending on which Region you play in. Each region is governed by a Triad (three volunteers that guide the plots of that region).
The play style and adventure types is different from area to area. The Theocracy of the Pale is very different from the Bandit Kingdoms.
I played in the Duchy of Urnst which didn't have the benefit of a unified plot over the last five years and our region's offerings were a bit schizophrenic.
The Core modules are played by one and all no mater which region you reside in.
The quality of the modules ranges from the sublime to the oy vey.
LOTS OF COOKS IN THE KITCHEN
In the beginning there were lots of old school Greyhawk fans that where running the show and playing (I was one of them). Eric Mona was the original guy in charge of the campaign.
However as time went on adhering to strict canon (only that which was written) became a straight jacket.
Turn over in the administration of the campaign, the need for many authors to supply a steady stream of adventures, and a player base of 11,000 people led to a less restrictive mindset from the Circle of Six (Co6) when the campaign was spun out as a member run campaign rather than one tightly controlled by WotC as it originally had.
NOTE: There are 5 meta-regions and one guy/gal in charge of it all (hence Co6). These folks run their respective meta-regions plus work on the Core plots. The meta-region administers several regions (triads).
Expect some stuff to happen that moves away from strict canon as a great many people playing and administrating didn't play Greyhawk in the good old days (heck quite a few players that sat at my tables I judged hadn't been born when it was released).
LOW MAGIC/LOW REWARDS = Living Ghetto
When we started this living campaign, Eric had us playing like it was a home game. Money was scarce, magic was scarcer and the term "We Greyhawk The Bodies" was coined.
I remember one adventure where we took down some mounted opposition (unfortunately we killed the mounts) and we stripped them of their tack and harness and saddles because we needed the money. Heck we would sell the clothes off our dead foes backs.
The first year was painful. Getting a masterwork weapon was an accomplishment and anyone that had a magical weapon was looked at with awe.
The second year (2002) turned in to the period we refer to as the Magic Mart days (It was also called Living Paperwork and it helped if you where an accountant to do it) when the administration of the campaign nearly imploded from the work load. The response was to have a more abstract system where you didn't keep the treasure from the adventure but instead sold it for the money and then were able to buy your items with your proceeds. This had the opposite effect of the Ghetto mentality of the first year and half (Fall 2000 through 2001) and things swung too far the other way.
By the third year we saw a pull back from the free wheeling days to the current system that is still abstract but has limits.
Believe me, it is not perfect but for a far flung campaign with the numbers that play it, it is the only way to do without the campaign collapsing from its own weight.
LG is what it is, a fun world to play in and where there is always a game to be had. Your character can go from place to place and drop in with whoever is there and you are all playing from the same rules set, for good or ill.
Just don't expect everyone to appreciate your deep understanding of the setting or share your horror at the some of the changes wrought by a lumbering giant that spans several continents.
Do what several have suggested mine if for ideas if you need "pure" Greyhawk.
Otherwise see it as you would a movie based upon a book, a transference of medium that has the flavor/essence of the source material, but will never be exactly like the source material.
Some of it is as good as Peter Jackson's LotR, while some is as bad as the animated version with plenty in between.
Just don't expect Tolkien or in our case Gygax...
Thank you for the history of LGH. I had heard the phrase "Greyhawk the bodies" before, but couldn't fix it in my mind with my meager experiences playing Year Five modules. Now it makes sense.
It's funny, the way you describe it is almost exactly as many home campaigns are run, at least in terms of wildly varying treasure values... Plus ca change.
I thing LG is a very mixed bag. It keeps GH in the minds of players and DMs, and gives them a common ground, but it's not the original GH. It's kinda like discussing Dune with someone who never read the book, but saw the 1984 David Lynch film. Some of the names and plots are the same, but the implementation is vastly different.
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