Re-visioning the Greyhawk Campaign

Premise and History 

My good and dear friend, and co-conspirator, and co-DM, Aaron Harris and I are working through the background to a new campaign we're preparing to run.  The game will focus for a large part on the drow; we talked a lot about them (their origins and gods, the shoddy manner that they were handled by post-Gygax TSR/WotC [in particular the manner in which they were commoditized, trivialized, and turned into ho-hum adversaries],  etc.).  We laid plans to redefine the drow to make them scary and evil and horrifying again (they want to destroy the sun), and then set to work on building out the rest of the game. 

The Grodog's View of Greyhawk Literary Canon

Canon, from a literary point-of-view, is a set of standard reference works which anyone educated in a particular subject or field can be expected to know, understand, and refer to.  That's my definition, not Harold Bloom's, but I don't think that many of my old professors would be displeased with it.  As Bloom and many others have noted about the literary canon, it changes over time:  today, most college-educated people in the United States can't read The Odyssey in the original Greek, because our education system has shifted away from Greek (for good or ill; that many students probably couldn't point to Greece on a map doesn't help, either...).  

The literary corollary to Greyhawk is important, because Greyhawk grognards define canon in many different ways, citing Gygax, Sargent, and other authors with iconoclastic, rigid abandon (much like Bloom does in literary circles).  The inherent problem with such an approach grows clear when new generations of readers don't know Gary Gygax or Rob Kuntz or Carl Sargent or Roger E. Moore, because their works are long out-of-print and hideously expensive on eBay.  By default, the canon works shift forward to Monte Cook and Erik Mona.

I am not trying to make a value-based comparison in the above statements, merely trying to say that not all Greyhawk fans have the long memory of people who have played D&D for 20+ years.  Many people argue that X or Y Greyhawk product that has been out-of-print for 15 years is essential to a true Greyhawk game, without realizing that there are people who have been playing D&D for ten years who have never read From the Ashes, or have never played Vault of the Drow.  

Campaign Baseline

That long preable now done, the following works form the core of my personal vision for Greyhawk canon.  In my Greyhawk games, I tend to use bits and pieces from many Greyhawk products.  In general, though, I favor the campaign content from the 1980 Folio and 1983 box set, and the updates to that setting from "Greyhawk's World" and "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" columns from Dragon Magazine, over later publications.  One of yy dilemmas is whether or not I use The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth version of history instead of the more traditional version found in S4 . . . . 

I use Russ Taylor's Chronological Greyhawk Product Checklist as my standard reference; note, however, that I list only my core canon works below.  I certainly draw upon additional resources, but those below shape and define my vision for Greyhawk.

Title (with Publication Year) Author
The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (1976) Gary Gygax
G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King (1978) Gary Gygax
D1 Descent Into the Depths of the Earth (1978) Gary Gygax
D3 Vault of the Drow (1978) Gary Gygax
T1 Village of Hommlet (1978) Gary Gygax
Dungeon Master's Guide (1979) Gary Gygax
A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity (1980) David Cook
The Rogues Gallery (1980) various, Brian Blume editor
"Greyhawk:  The Shape of the World" in The Dragon #37 (May 1980) Gary Gygax
S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1982) Gary Gygax
WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (1982) Gary Gygax
The World of Greyhawk Campaign Setting (1983) Gary Gygax
WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (1984) Rob Kuntz 
Maze of Zayene series (1987-1988) Rob Kuntz
"Gates in the World of Greyhawk" (1995 in America Online's Greyhawk folder) Roger E. Moore
Living Greyhawk RPGA Absolute Power scenarios "River of Blood" (2000) and "As He Lay Dying" (2002) Erik Mona
Dungeon's "Maure Castle" and "The Chambers of Antiquities" Rob Kuntz
Dungeon's Age of Worms scenario "The Whispering Cairn" (2005) Erik Mona

Modified Canon

I heavily modify the following canon sources, but they are important enough to warrant mention because of that fact:

Title (with Publication Year) Author
Saga of Old City (1984) Gary Gygax
Artifact of Evil (1986) Gary Gygax
Return of the Eight (1998) Roger E. Moore
Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins (1998) Roger E. Moore
"The Official History of the Greyhawk Wars" (1991; 1995 republication online) David Cook
From the Ashes (1992) Carl Sargent
Ivid the Undying (1994) Carl Sargent
The Living Greyhawk Journal (2000-2004) Erik Mona (editor)

Probationary Canon

I haven't sufficiently absorbed the following works, and have not made a determination of their status in my canon yet.  For the nonce, they're in limbo.  

Title (with Publication Year) Author
Slavers (2000) Sean K. Reynolds and Chris Pramas
Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2001) Erik Mona, Gary Holian, and Fred Weining
Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001) Monte Cook

The Grodog's Deviations from Greyhawk Canon

While I use many of the settings, characters, and plots from many Greyhawk products, I mix and match elements of background lore to weave my own version of Greyhawk.  In doing so, I emphasize the aspects of works that I and my players like best.  

Sargent's Ivid the Undying helps illustrate how I warp and mold canon to my campaigns.  I do not use animuses (animi?), and similarly tone down much of Sargent's elven mythic background for the Flanaess.  The idea of an insane ruler is cool, I just don't like Sargent's execution of that idea.  In addition, I do not use Iuz as 

  • Much of Roger Moore's materials based on Ivid the Undying change in the way of my Sargent fallout
  • ur-Flan, Vecna, elves, Iuz as empire-builder, Scarlett Brotherhood in the open
  • Olman = They were brought to GH from Isle of the Ape, and died out because 
    they eventually found their way home.

The Grodog's Vault

Once my D&D materials arrive in California, I intend to begin converting them to 3rd edition.  You'll read the results here and on my Greyhawk site.

  • Adventures
  • Character Classes 
    • Altering the Sorceror:  spontaneous magic a la Ars Magica meets D&D 3rd edition
  • Character Races
    • Putting the E back in Drow:  Evil Dark Elves in Greyhawk
  • Greyhawk's Gods, with additions to D&D 3e format from The Primal Order
  • House Rules
  • Monsters
    • Daemons
    • Demons 
      • I love Demogorgon's magic ring in "A Stone's Throw Away" (Dragon 85)
    • Dragons
  • Magic Items
  • Prestige Classes
    • Availability of Prestige Classes in Greyhawk
  • The Rulers of Greyhawk
    • changing the leaders of Oerth's nations to include DMG NPC classes, and otherwise tweaking them to my whimsy
  • Skills and D&D 3rd edition
    • Broadening the skill-set of Fighters, tweaking the skill-points of Rangers/Bards (perhaps?)
  • Spells
    • Commonality and Availability of Wizard Spells in Greyhawk
    • Spells of Greyhawk (including lost spells, such as those unique to the quasi-deities)


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