First, let me say I’m not a Greyhawk purist or a militant grognard. My current Greyhawk game is very much a "TSR Greyhawk" and utilises Planescape, Spelljammer and Ravenloft. I also use the City of Greyhawk boxed set of '89 and WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins. All in all, it’s a fun game and I won’t change it.
Nevertheless, I’ve been contemplating running a "pure" Gygaxian Greyhawk on the side for another group of players. This Greyhawk would stay as true to the model of Greyhawk Gygax envisioned. Of course, a major reference for this GH would be the Gord the Rogue novels. From those novels I’d take the map and descriptions of the city of Greyhawk in particular (which we all know is different from TSR's '89 boxed set). Another reference would be Castle Zagyg. This is the "closest" official published Castle Greyhawk. Yes, we all know it is nothing like the Castle Greyhawk Gygax ran in his basement, but it is the closest thing to a Gygaxian Castle Greyhawk in as much as the product had EGG's blessing and direction. (Unfortunately it was never completed but the fan-based Castle of the Mad Archmage project will help immensely to fill in the gaps.)
Anyway, I had two questions regards a Gygaxian Greyhawk model:
1) Demi-human deities
I have read online that the demi-human deities which appeared in the appendix of the 1E Unearthed Arcana supplement (and which earlier appeared in an issue of Dragon apparently) were never intended to be a part of GH. This is fine, I could manage without them, but I was wondering if anyone has an actual quote from Gygax saying as much. I’d just like more evidence, that’s all.
2) 1E Manual of the Planes
We're all familiar with the description of the planes at the back of the 1E PHB. Well, the 1E MotP was an expansion of that. It was written by Jeff Grubb who described the physical look of the various planes. Anyway, I was wondering if this book was given Gygax’s blessing and is "canon" in a Gygaxian Greyhawk. I think this book was released close to that time EGG left TSR (or was in the process of leaving).
1. I'm not sure about demihuman deities, but I seem to recall something about that topic over on dragonsfoot.org. IIRC, it's in the "Zagyg's Wisdom" thread.
2. I'm quite sure that MotP had little to do with Gygax's version of the planes other than building on their original inspiration. The Gord novels, you've likely noted, have several differences (the Plane of Thought and the Plane of Probability, for example).
The pantheon of deities in the Flanaess is very broad, and many humanoids and demi-humans serve deities which do not have an aspect that exactly matches the race in question, be it dwarven, elven, orcish or whatever. However, for communities of demi-humans or humanoids outside human areas of settlement, or for large enclaves therein, some racial deities are needed. For such, you should feel comfortable employing the “Nonhumans’ Deities” section of the DEITIES & DEMIGODS™ Cyclopedia...
...and then he went on to reassign different home planes for some of the nonhuman deities so that no gods lived in the Nine Hells or the Abyss (you'll note lawful evil and chaotic evil gods like Hextor and Erythnul are placed elsewhere by Gygax; he only wanted devils and demons on those planes).
So anyway, Gary Gygax is on record saying that demihuman and humanoid gods are "needed," and then he went on in the same article to invent one of his own, Raxivort. The only sense that the others are not "Gygaxian" is that he didn't invent them himself, but the same is true of the Suel gods.
A "Gygaxian" version of Greyhawk should probably include some entirely nonhuman gods in the vein of Corellon, Gruumsh, Raxivort, and Moradin, but they should be used sparingly, and primarily only in racially "pure" or isolated regions. Nonhumans will worship human deities as well.
That said, while Gygax broadly recommended the Deities & Demigods nonhuman deities, and seemed to have approved the inclusion of still more in Unearthed Arcana, I personally feel like some of them overlap existing Greyhawk deities very closely. I think the centaur/satyr god Skerrit is pretty much identical to Obad-hai and might as well be considered to be the same entity. Not only do Ulaa and Dumathoin have the same sphere of influence, they even have the same holy symbol.
But there are of course several other primarily nonhuman gods that Gygax invented as he needed them, including Lolth, Blibdoolpoolp, and the Elder Elemental God. I don't think it makes sense for a setting in which each human ethnic group has its own pantheon for other species to have to share deities with unrelated human ethnic groups. If the Suel and Flan have their own pantheons, why wouldn't the elves? But it's true that many gods in a Gygaxian Greyhawk will be revered by multiple races at once; Ulaa is prayed to equally by dwarves, gnomes, humans and halflings; the Elder Elemental God is worshiped by both giants and drow; Lolth has a human priest; Ehlonna is worshiped by elves, halflings, and humans; Obad-hai has over a dozen aspects, including that of a dwarf; Vaprak is worshiped by both ogres and trolls. Grolantor is worshiped by both hill giants and ettins.
As for the second question, Gygax left TSR in 1985 and the Manual of the Planes was published in 1987. As Bubbagump points out, there are a number of additions to the cosmology added in the Gord series, and you can see where Gygax's own thoughts on cosmology were developing in the book Mythus Magic for the Dangerous Journeys RPG. The planes as they're presented in the Gord books are summarized on Chris Siren's Gord's Greyhawk website. Gary Gygax actually explicitly criticizes one aspect of the Manual of the Planes in Oerth Journal #12. The MotP had Tharizdun (or an unnamed entity who matches the description of Tharizdun) imprisoned in an Ethereal demiplane; Gygax opines that this was not very well thought-out, and suggests an alternative scheme involving an infinite series of possible realities.
That said, Gygax didn't provide very detailed descriptions of most of the planes in his cosmology, and it's generally compatible enough with the Manual of the Planes (and Planescape, for that matter) that no matter how Gygaxian you're trying to be, you can still use a lot of it. Just use the Gord the Rogue names for Abyssal layers and make sure there's nothing but demons and devils in the Abyss and the Nine Hells - no gods in either of those planes.
Yes, the gods and the planes are areas that could be described as veritable blank slates in Gygax canon - it's pretty clear that he had some idea of how he wanted them, and he put some work into it, but nothing was ever fully detailed in the sense that we might like. There were also a lot of changes that arose as early D&D was being developed via the original Lake Geneva campaign. For example, we know that Gygax used the Norse and other Earth pantheons at least for a while, then began adding figures such as Lolth, et al.
IMCO, I don't even think a "purely Gygaxian" cosmology is really a good idea. Frankly, what he left us with is too sketchy and even the most astute of us would likely do a poor job of recreating it. I do believe Oerth could benefit from more complete information drawn from Gygaxian sources (the aforementioned planes of Thought and Probability spring to mind), but beyond the inclusion of a few such elements I suspect the result would be a mess. The current 'canon' crop of deities and planes is much more consistent and useful from a game perspective, and I doubt screwing with it significantly would accomplish any useful purpose. I say stick with what we got from TSR.
"One more thing about official material. Roger Moore did such
a splendid job with the non-human deities (see DRAGON
issues #59-63) that I have urged TSR to include them in the next
edition of the DEITIES & DEMIGODS™ Cyclopedia, whenever
such a revision takes place. Meanwhile, you should most certainly
regard the work as “Official”! (Those AD&D players who
are employing the WORLD OF GREYHAWK™ setting for their
campaign can likewise incorporate this material into their activities
if they so desire, although some alterations should be
made to make sure the non-human deities reflect the WORLD
OF GREYHAWK mode, as presented in several previous issues
of this Splendid Journal.)"
From reading the comments above, I believe the demi-human deities in UA should be part of a Gygaxian Greyhawk. I know Gygax didn't create them but we must understand that Greyhawk, from its very outset, has been a shared world. Some of the most classic adventures placed in Greyhawk are not penned by Gygax. I think any AD&D work that received EGG's blessing (like Moore's demi-human deities) should qualify as a part of Greyhawk as it was the "default" setting back then.
As to MotP, this wouldn't be Gygaxian because he left prior to it's release. I'll track down the Mythus book and extrapolate planar info from that.
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