[WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

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Dread Delgath
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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by Dread Delgath » Mon Jul 24, 2017 7:34 am

ripvanwormer wrote:In any case, say the City of Greyhawk, or Castle Greyhawk, is the most important place on Oerth. What do you do with that? How does that inspire adventures? It makes the setting seem smaller and less interesting to me. I'd rather think of Oerth and the Flanaess as a varied setting with a number of equally viable places for adventure, not satellites orbiting around a single town.
In order to facilitate a campaign, by default, the most important place on Oerth is exactly where the players are, and where they are going next. To infer anything else during play, or designing play around to force players to go to the most important place should be met with obstinance and if necessary, ridicule.

(What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter what the players are doing, going, or planning, its the DM's job to make it interesting and worth playing - thus that is the goal - and that is the most important place in any campaign.)

Now, to be totally serious and provide a little bit of an answer, I'd say that WoG setting is big enough to allow many equally interesting places to adventure, and using the City of Greyhawk & Greyhawk Castle/Ruins as the cornerstone of the campaign, or at least as far as locating the "big finish" to a campaign.

I'd love to see at least five starter places featuring campaign set-ups for immediate sandbox play, each of the five giving one section of the alignment chart - Neutral (City of Greyhawk), Lawful Evil (Great Kingdom), Lawful Good (Furyondy/Nyrond), Chaotic Good (Keoland/Verbobonc), and Chaotic Evil (Iuz/). The other four could be worked in later - Chaotic Neutral (The Barbarians), Neutral Evil (Valley of the Mage), Lawful Neutral (Theocracy of the Pale), and Neutral Good (Yeomanry/Geoff/Sea Princes).

(These are examples, based on what I remember from my old Greyhawk campaign, and may not be accurate to the latest "canonical" information post-Wars.)

I'd like these to be players guides for human characters - informing the players what the humans from these major areas (more than simple alignments, however) are like - culturally, ethnically, alignment tendencies, and all the rest of the logistical stuff, but not get bogged down in "everything is happening here at X marks the spot" kind of detail.

I always got the distinct feeling that the later WoG material assumes that the players want to be exactly where the book says all the action is happening, but in all of my experience as player and DM, those make for the worst kinds of adventures because whatever the script is on about, its usually the farthest from the players' collective area of interest. This kind of design felt very "top down", and I always used the "bottom up" style write ups to much better response from my players - and this is because it allows the players to make their own decisions about where they want to go, and not let any "adventure seeds" stop them from doing what they want, based solely on "you must help us for the good of the kingdom!" traps.

TLDR Version: I want more Greyhawk Sandbox.

Sorry, it is late where I am at and I am starting to feel the downward pull of the 'lids, and I'm rambling, so this is a good place to stop, and hopefully I will pick this up later and run with it some more.
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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by willpell » Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:37 pm

Dread Delgath wrote: In order to facilitate a campaign, by default, the most important place on Oerth is exactly where the players are, and where they are going next. To infer anything else during play, or designing play around to force players to go to the most important place should be met with obstinance and if necessary, ridicule.

(What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter what the players are doing, going, or planning, its the DM's job to make it interesting and worth playing - thus that is the goal - and that is the most important place in any campaign.)
The objectively most important places on Earth right now are New York City, Washington D.C., Moscow, the Iraq-Syria border, Hollywood, Bollywood, and wherever Katy Perry is currently touring. Kuala Lumpur is definitely not on the list, but it's perfectly possible for your d20 modern character, playing in a 2017 campaign based closely on current affairs, cannot go to Kuala Lumpur and have an adventure.

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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by Dread Delgath » Mon Jul 24, 2017 3:49 pm

willpell wrote:
Dread Delgath wrote: In order to facilitate a campaign, by default, the most important place on Oerth is exactly where the players are, and where they are going next. To infer anything else during play, or designing play around to force players to go to the most important place should be met with obstinance and if necessary, ridicule.

(What I'm saying is that it doesn't matter what the players are doing, going, or planning, its the DM's job to make it interesting and worth playing - thus that is the goal - and that is the most important place in any campaign.)
The objectively most important places on Earth right now are New York City, Washington D.C., Moscow, the Iraq-Syria border, Hollywood, Bollywood, and wherever Katy Perry is currently touring. Kuala Lumpur is definitely not on the list, but it's perfectly possible for your d20 modern character, playing in a 2017 campaign based closely on current affairs, cannot go to Kuala Lumpur and have an adventure.
And if I was a player in that game, I'd get negative XP for doing everything to avoid those places. Especially Katy Perry. :lol:

But I think I get what you're saying: that although there are important places, the PCs may choose instead to go to Kuala Lumpur...
...but your campaign focuses on the important places, which I, as a player, might ignore completely - as I am too busy being focused on where I am right now as this place is the most important and interesting place on earth.

And you know what that means: My DM is doing his/her job right! :cool:
A big THANKS! to Giant Space Hamster & Chimpman for the cookies! (Dark Side be damned!) :D

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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by willpell » Mon Jul 24, 2017 8:11 pm

Dread Delgath wrote:And if I was a player in that game, I'd get negative XP for doing everything to avoid those places. Especially Katy Perry. :lol:

But I think I get what you're saying: that although there are important places, the PCs may choose instead to go to Kuala Lumpur...
...but your campaign focuses on the important places, which I, as a player, might ignore completely - as I am too busy being focused on where I am right now as this place is the most important and interesting place on earth.

And you know what that means: My DM is doing his/her job right! :cool:
I suspect that you understood me just fine, but simply for the sake of clarity: I never said that my campaign focused on important places, only that there *were* important places, and that this wasn't determined by where the players chose to be.

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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by ripvanwormer » Mon Jul 24, 2017 8:34 pm

Anywhere the PCs go should be interesting; whether or not it's important depends on what metric you're using. Certainly from an economic, military, or political sense, or in terms of magical or religious significance, some parts of Oerth are more important than others. My ideal Greyhawk has a number of important places by these metrics rather than being hyperfocused on Greyhawk City. Greyhawk, it should be said, occupies a place dead center of the Flanaess and has an outsized economic influence, though I wouldn't say its political or military significance is as great as other places. Militarily it's important as a bulwark against the Pomarj, but so is the Principality of Ulek and Celene. Politically it's important mostly in a local context.

That said, Dread Delgath isn't wrong to suggest modifying how significant a locale is based on player choices. Greyhawk City could become a decisive turning point by all metrics if the players make it one, either deliberately or simply because the fact that they've chosen to be there makes it make for more convenient storytelling.

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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by combatmedicreturns » Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:51 pm

Good ideas and insightful comments, Rip.


I like the detailed description of Greyhawk the city and its outlying regions. I'm thinking mainly of the City of Greyhawk boxed set, though a fair chunk of this information appears again in later sources.

But I like that most of the rest of the setting receives only incidental or lightly sketched description.

What does get more attention:

Mark-lands
I have only seen it once, and that briefly.


Rary the Traitor. Bright Desert looks fun. It has Desert centaurs, IIRC.

Valley of the Mage. I own it. I like it, but I'd mess about with it in actual play. The Tree People are cool. Gnomes! Valley Elves I actually prefer to standard elves in some respects-- they have a certain fairy tale vibe.


Dragon Magazine article about the Bandit Kingdoms
Fun stuff. Petty, squabbling baronies of robberlords in monster-haunted borderlands. Adventure time!


Great Kingdom of Aerdy as described in Ivid the Undying. I am sure I have seen the unpublished(in print) Document. It was a free release, no?

Lendore Isles as detailed in modules and a PDF by Len Lakofka

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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by willpell » Thu Jan 17, 2019 10:27 pm

combatmedicreturns wrote:
Sat Aug 05, 2017 6:51 pm
But I like that most of the rest of the setting receives only incidental or lightly sketched description.
The mind boggles....

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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by maddog » Tue Jan 22, 2019 5:16 pm

I always thought that a world spanning campaign would have been really great in Greyhawk. It's been my experience that a campaign is a regional experience in this setting.
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Re: [WoG] What Makes Greyhawk Unique as a Setting?

Post by stebehil » Tue Jan 22, 2019 8:42 pm

I always thought the detailed description of the human ethnicies was pretty cool, but I guess this is not unique. I think GH can not be subsumed with a single word or phrase, there are several elements that stand out, be it geographic (Sea of Dust) or societal (Scarlet Brotherhood, and an Killer-for-hire sitting openly on a city council?) or political (a Demi-God ruling his own country (or empire)? A country run by death priests?). And entities like Tharizdun or Vecna or Acererak (or any of those with named items in the original DMG) sound interesting as well.
Furthermore, as mentioned above, the sandbox structure of the 1e settings are interesting, and the whole warring business as well. And the generally "lower-level", gritty feeling the setting somehow has. It should be an ideal fit to the 5e ideas on magic items etc. GH would still work if permanent magic items were a once-in-a-lifetime find.

Overall, the kingdoms and realms feel more renaissance-like to me than medieval. But then, so is most generic fantasy, if you look at the technology - late medieval to renaissance. (Would renaissance firearms kill the setting?)

So, it is not an easy sale, as the qualities of the setting are not conveniently summed up in a short phrase.

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