Yesterday, this comment by willpell in this thread: Re: What 5th Edition Greyhawk product should WotC publish? viewtopic.php?f=11&t=17293&p=198808#p198808 nudged me to ask myself, and now the rest of the forum the question,willpell wrote:Yeah, I've looked through the entire Living Greyhawk Gazetteer from 3E, and I *still* don't know what Greyhawk is "about", beyond being Gygax's original setting. Not much about it seems particularly unique in any way I can really put my finger on; with them having moved onto FR (which feels a little more "unique" to me, though not close to Eberron and Dark Sun and such) as the default, I'm really puzzled as to how you identify Greyhawk's uniqueness by comparison.
"What makes Greyhawk unique as a setting? What sets it apart from the Forgotten Realms, Eberron and Dark Sun?"
Yes, it was the first campaign setting published by TSR, and a variation on Gary Gygax's own campaign world. There were differences and many, many omissions from the original to protect Gygax's own campaign from his players discovering all of his secrets.
But really, what makes it unique? What made it stand out as a campaign setting?
Yes, it was kind of bland, but I assume this was designed as a semi-blank slate on purpose, like the board of "Outdoor Survival" - a generic map to allow each DM and his/her table of players to make the world live and thrive as they saw fit to do in their own campaigns.
It was based in a fantastic version of Medieval America; there were elements of a native human population subsumed into the immigrant population.
There were medieval fantasy monsters and demi-human races.
There was also a strong medieval warfare flavor that was conductive to the war-gaming element joining in the new role-playing game.
It is still admired by many "traditional" role-players, as it was entirely focused on fantasy in literature, rather than the game based on the game, or other games of a more high-tech variety - what I still call "video" games, ...or movies or any other fantasy elements embedded in other forms of media (online or tv, for example).
But, these elements alone or together cannot explain to me what makes Greyhawk "unique" enough to garner as much interest in modern D&D terms as it has in the older (grognard) D&D gamers.
Nostalgia? Hardly. I never really stopped playing the older editions, so its very anathema for me to 'wax nostalgic' over a game that I am still playing. So that is not part of the "unique" equation. I suppose if I am nostalgic about anything in D&D, it would be remembering the style of play that has all but disappeared in modern times. It might have a lot to do with the overwhelming set of rules and player agency that has hamstrung DM creativity, or at the least focused and aimed it in particular directions that I don't agree with and couched everything in still equally nebulous terms of "balance".
In the old days, there was little thought to "balance" or what we could get away with by dodging or subverting the meaning of the rules - we were honest enough to admit that we were either playing by the rules or not playing by the rules. House rules was not a term we were acquainted with, although we had notebooks full of rules notes - we noted which rules we followed and which ones we did not.
But that just adds more questions to the OP, and not really conductive for me to find that unique thing about Greyhawk.
Perhaps that unique thing about Greyhawk is that no matter what level we played at - it was our game. If we were 20th level characters who could take on Merlin or Conan, or any manner of God or monster - we could with throwaway abandon.
We did not concern ourselves with questions of "balance" or "if we do this, we'll destroy the Greyhawk campaign!"
We were never concerned that we'd throw the campaign "off the rails" and deviate from the script, because there was no script. We could do whatever we wanted to, and we had an entire campaign world to do it in. Iuz? Just another demi-god to defeat on our way to 20th level. Ivid and the Great Kingdom? Just another kingdom full of armies and paved roads to take over and rule as we wanted.
The Temple of Elemental Evil was but the first seat we sat on as we looked across the Flanaess and determined which country to take over next.
Greyhawk City and Castle Greyhawk, however, were always shrouded in a mystical fog, as we always awaited the release of the "official" (and by official, I mean Gary Gygax's own versions, not the 2e versions that attempted to ape the originals!) and were the linchpin in our dreams of taking over and running the whole Oeridian continent.
So, there was that. That was pretty standard fare back in the day, but is a completely "unbalanced" thing to do these days, so that might qualify as unique.
So, anyone else have any thoughts as to what makes Greyhawk "unique"? What sets it apart as a setting? Different than the Forgotten Realms? DIfferent from Birthright? Different than Eberron, Dark Fun, Ravenloft, or even Spelljammer?
What makes this completely "vanilla" flavored setting different, and possibly superior to other settings for you?