D&D General For the Love of Greyhawk: Why People Still Fight to Preserve Greyhawk

Is he, though? I have been following this as a GH fan (though I am a fan of the "wrong" GH, i.e. From the Ashes), and it seems more like he's asking what makes the setting distinct and special to warrant a big product from WotC. That should be easy to answer without asking the prospective consumer to read a bunch of 40+ year old books, shouldn't it?
I am a fan of the From the Ashes too. But not knowing S&S is a bit strange for an RPG fan. I do admit that our friend Ruinexplorer is a bit harsh on our friend Chaosmancer. Both have some valid points though. But he does not have to read thousands of books. A novel with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser should be more than enough to get an idea of the setting.
 

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Chaosmancer

Legend
1) Opponents are always aplenty for the PCs. PCs can never run out of opponents. But for the "fixed" number of "named" NPCs I would not count the random encounter tables as relevant of the power level of a city/country. It is the "named" NPCs that matters the most as your players will need to interact with some of them for buying/selling/contracts for object making and many other possibilities. The nameless blokes meant to be opponents for the players do not matter one iota. Be it Greyhawk, FR, DS, Eberron or any other settings.

2) I partially agree. A lot can be explained by play expectations but not everything. The tone of Greyhawk is way different. The amount of High Level NPCs in Greyhawk is a lot less than in other settings. This makes high level PCs both an asset and a liability. If they are your allies, HURRAY! If they are your foes... DOH! A single high level fighter in Greyhawk can possibly take on an average castle by himself, imagine if he is with his fellow adventurers... (for an average castle, take a look on the Assassin's knot adventure. A 12th level fighter will slay everyone in there without having a serious trouble. Well, a well placed "hold person spell" might be problematic but if the fighter has the chance to slay them first... The rest would be a cake walk. For the standard castle in FR, go check on the Bloodstone lands supplement FR 9. Lots of high level opponents in there. Yet, Bloodstone is barely the equivalent of Furyondy and this is a nation besieged by a demi-god! Hell, even the supplement Castles! we could see the difference between the settings.

A high level PC in Greyhawk will bring a lot more respect than the equivalent level in the FR. Simply because the lord of the land is probably unable to take on the PCs by himself if nothing else. This alone should bring a lot of respect. In a lost place like Shadow Dale, Mourngrim was 14th level! And let's not talk about the others around (and do not forget Elminster himself...). Hell, Khelben Blackstaff had a special rule that he was always 5 levels higher than the highest PC... If that is not a power spike, nothing is. You don't see that in Greyhawk. Tenser in the Island of the Ape is of the same level as the PC. And the amount of treasure he pays them is astronomical! He knows he can't do it himself and if you take a careful read of the text that is to be read to the players, Tenser is respectful and careful in choice of words with the PC.


I think your points #1 and #2 run together in a strange way.

You say it doesn't matter how many "nameless" casters there are of any given level, because they are meant to be foes for the heroes to slay.

But, I think that same meta-game logic applies to things like Khelben Blackstaff's rule. It isn't meant for saying that if you encounter him at level 1 he is level 6, and by level 17 he is level 22. The intent is that he is supposed to be more powerful than the party, and if the DM wants to run a high-level adventure, then he needs to be higher level to still maintain his role in the fiction.


And, you have to consider those random NPCs if what you are saying is true. If a level 12 fighter can defeat an entire castle by himself, and the table says that you have a percent chance of running into a squad of 1d6 level 10 fighters.... why aren't they in charge? These guys could take over the entire city in a matter of hours, why are they nameless thugs without a purpose in the plot.


And I think, though I have no backing for this in research, that trying to find a solution for that is what led to FR's overabundance of important NPCs. DnD, by and large, is a game that lends itself to societies that are meritocracies (if not theocracies and Magocracies) because the average level 10 adventurer is a match for a squad of guards. A single mage has more personal power than many nobles in old times could have dreamed of having.

The solution FR tried, it seems to me, was to have enough big fish in the pond to say "these people are keeping the status Quo, that is why the level 14 mage you are fighting isn't running his own country"

Of course, this led to a new problem. Why aren't these people saving the day and maintaining the status Quo? Which led to new solutions. Some of which working, some of which not.


But, this is a fundamental problem with fantasy and superhero worlds across all media. Character X is powerful and intelligent enough to be a better leader able to keep her people safe than the people in charge, why isn't she in charge. Character Y is so powerful, if he wanted to be in charge, no one could stop him. Why isn't he in charge?

Sometimes people find reasons in the fiction, sometimes people are just as powerful as they need to be. If you need the character capable of casting Raise Dead in DnD, they need to be at least level 9, no matter if that makes narrative sense from the perspective of the world. I think this was also the impetus for the NPC Classes in 3.5, trying to create a new set of rules that goverened this part of the fiction, so there didn't feel like a big disconnect, or the NPCs having powers the players don't.
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
I am a fan of the From the Ashes too. But not knowing S&S is a bit strange for an RPG fan. I do admit that our friend Ruinexplorer is a bit harsh on our friend Chaosmancer. Both have some valid points though. But he does not have to read thousands of books. A novel with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser should be more than enough to get an idea of the setting.

I guess it comes down to what do you mean about "knowing"

I don't feel like I know Conan. I've never read a single novel or comic, I've seen only clips of the movies.

I've picked up bits. He is very strong, clever, and stealthy. He killed lots of evil magic users. He was a slave at one point. He parties hard and enjoys fighting.

But, I wouldn't say I know him any better than I know anything else that I've just heard the name of a bunch of times. And S+S seems to be... just gritty fantasy? I've seen it put up against High Fantasy a lot, so the intent seems to be that it is lower powered fantasy, but also it is fighting against gods and monsters that are truly terrifying forces. It also rarely has good magic-users.

I think a little bit about Sparhawk from David Eddings, or some of the motley crew from the Mistborn series. Or that one PS1 game I played years ago, Heroes of Might and Magic, where the guy got a cursed mask shoved over his face.

But, do I know S+S? I wouldn't say so. I'm not familiar enough with it to even know if a given property fits the genre. Just as I couldn't tell you what qualifies as "Black Metal" compared to "Heavy Metal" compared to "Metal". I'm just not that familiar with the terms.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
I am a fan of the From the Ashes too. But not knowing S&S is a bit strange for an RPG fan. I do admit that our friend Ruinexplorer is a bit harsh on our friend Chaosmancer. Both have some valid points though. But he does not have to read thousands of books. A novel with Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser should be more than enough to get an idea of the setting.
I do not think that Chaosmancer even need to read a book the TVtropes page and watch Conan the Barbarian and he is good to go.
 

Voadam

Legend
I never thought of Greyhawk as low magic or low powered.

Here are the magic-users/wizards I think of when I think of Greyhawk

Acererak
Bigby
Drawmij
Iggwilv
Mage of the Vale
Melf
Mordenkainen
Nystul
Rary
Otiluke
Otto
Tasha
Tenser
Vecna
Xagyg

There are others
 
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Chaosmancer

Legend
I do not think that Chaosmancer even need to read a book the TVtropes page and watch Conan the Barbarian and he is good to go.

Amusingly, I would argue that knowing S+S would require me to do more than read a tropes page and watch a movie (which one by the way, aren't there like 5 of them? People keep saying it like there is a definitive movie but I'm only really aware of Arnold, a remake, and... there was one with mirrors? But that might still be... no, cause I think the Arnold one had a snake guy, right?)
 

I think your points #1 and #2 run together in a strange way.

You say it doesn't matter how many "nameless" casters there are of any given level, because they are meant to be foes for the heroes to slay.

But, I think that same meta-game logic applies to things like Khelben Blackstaff's rule. It isn't meant for saying that if you encounter him at level 1 he is level 6, and by level 17 he is level 22. The intent is that he is supposed to be more powerful than the party, and if the DM wants to run a high-level adventure, then he needs to be higher level to still maintain his role in the fiction.
The exact rule is: Khelben Blackstaff is at a minimum of 27th level and he is always 5 levels above any PCs in any cases. That is the kind of power you see in FR that you don't in Greyhawk.

And, you have to consider those random NPCs if what you are saying is true. If a level 12 fighter can defeat an entire castle by himself, and the table says that you have a percent chance of running into a squad of 1d6 level 10 fighters.... why aren't they in charge? These guys could take over the entire city in a matter of hours, why are they nameless thugs without a purpose in the plot.


And I think, though I have no backing for this in research, that trying to find a solution for that is what led to FR's overabundance of important NPCs. DnD, by and large, is a game that lends itself to societies that are meritocracies (if not theocracies and Magocracies) because the average level 10 adventurer is a match for a squad of guards. A single mage has more personal power than many nobles in old times could have dreamed of having.

The solution FR tried, it seems to me, was to have enough big fish in the pond to say "these people are keeping the status Quo, that is why the level 14 mage you are fighting isn't running his own country"

Of course, this led to a new problem. Why aren't these people saving the day and maintaining the status Quo? Which led to new solutions. Some of which working, some of which not.


But, this is a fundamental problem with fantasy and superhero worlds across all media. Character X is powerful and intelligent enough to be a better leader able to keep her people safe than the people in charge, why isn't she in charge. Character Y is so powerful, if he wanted to be in charge, no one could stop him. Why isn't he in charge?

Sometimes people find reasons in the fiction, sometimes people are just as powerful as they need to be. If you need the character capable of casting Raise Dead in DnD, they need to be at least level 9, no matter if that makes narrative sense from the perspective of the world. I think this was also the impetus for the NPC Classes in 3.5, trying to create a new set of rules that goverened this part of the fiction, so there didn't feel like a big disconnect, or the NPCs having powers the players don't.

That is a bit of the problem with random encounter table. Most of these are not logical by nature. These nameless NPCs are there to be beaten by the heroes of your stories. What is very fun with with 5th edition, is that you don't need to get very high level NPCs to challenge your group. Just a bunch of well played lower level NPCs can do the job. Bounded accuracy does have its advantages.

I never thought of Greyhawk as low magic or low powered.

Here are the magic-users/wizards I think of when I think of Greyhawk

Acererak
Bigby
Drawmij
Iggwilv
Mage of the Vale
Melf
Mordenkainen
Nystul
Rary
Otiluke
Otto
Serten
Tasha
Tenser
Vecna
Xagyg

There are others
I will not go in details about each of them. But you take the whole continent and legendary casters that are either dead, foes or even demi-gods. I take a single city, Waterdeep, and I get even more than what you have there! And even in the list, you have NPCs that are not level 18... Should we include The Symbul (28th if I remember correctly), Elminster (27th level in 1ed), Lady Alustriel (25th?) And players can interact with them even in their early levels if you take some adventures module, it can be as low as 3rd level. Try to interact with Mordenkained before level 10... you'll get a: "No thank you. No time for you. Too busy..." from a servitor. If you get any answer at all.

Mordenkainen in the original box set is only level 18th (and coincidentaly, the same level in CoS). Tenser is also level 18th. The mage of the Vale is 19th but in the original box set he was rumored to be 12th... (2nd edition tended to upgrade the power spike quite a bit for some reasons, but even then, it was not that big.). If you go this way, FR has way more 18th level casters than Greyhawk. Way more than 3 or 4 times the same amount. Stick to one city, Waterdeep. It is about 3 to 4 times the amount of the higher levels casters than what you can find in Greyhawk. This speaks a lot for the setting.

And I did not say that Greyhawk did not have "high" magic. I said that it was way rarer than any other settings. Legendary casters are all around level 16 to 18 where as in the realm, they range from 18th level up to 27th (with one case that has no limits on his levels...).

Amusingly, I would argue that knowing S+S would require me to do more than read a tropes page and watch a movie (which one by the way, aren't there like 5 of them? People keep saying it like there is a definitive movie but I'm only really aware of Arnold, a remake, and... there was one with mirrors? But that might still be... no, cause I think the Arnold one had a snake guy, right?)
You are right. But it would be a start and would give you a better idea. You don't have to have a library with 2000 books in it (as I have) to get to know S&S. Conan, the first movie is really good and quite representative. The Witcher serie is great and Game of Thrones would finalize your initiation. I would still read anything from Fritz Leiber as it is really close to what Greyhawk is. These are really good read. Often, they come in small novels/parts that can be read relatively fast so it does not take too much time.
 

UngainlyTitan

Legend
Supporter
Amusingly, I would argue that knowing S+S would require me to do more than read a tropes page and watch a movie (which one by the way, aren't there like 5 of them? People keep saying it like there is a definitive movie but I'm only really aware of Arnold, a remake, and... there was one with mirrors? But that might still be... no, cause I think the Arnold one had a snake guy, right?)
Depend on what you mean by knowing, if you want a general idea that is sufficient. If you really want to know it they by all means, read Howard, Lieber and Moorcock or not, that is you choice. You do not need a in depth knowledge of S&S to understand whether you would be interested in Greyhawk.
 

The exact rule is: Khelben Blackstaff is at a minimum of 27th level and he is always 5 levels above any PCs in any cases. That is the kind of power you see in FR that you don't in Greyhawk.



That is a bit of the problem with random encounter table. Most of these are not logical by nature. These nameless NPCs are there to be beaten by the heroes of your stories. What is very fun with with 5th edition, is that you don't need to get very high level NPCs to challenge your group. Just a bunch of well played lower level NPCs can do the job. Bounded accuracy does have its advantages.


I will not go in details about each of them. But you take the whole continent and legendary casters that are either dead, foes or even demi-gods. I take a single city, Waterdeep, and I get even more than what you have there!
I get your point, but I wonder if, from the perspective of an actual campaign, this is a meaningful distinction.

If you are running Dragon Heist, how many high level characters would you expect to come across? On my home campaigns (though this may just be me), those high level characters don’t exist for all intents and purposes.

But if they did, wouldn’t high level NPCs essentially play the same role in both campaigns: Mordenkainen or Elminster as quest-giver?
 

Chaosmancer

Legend
Depend on what you mean by knowing, if you want a general idea that is sufficient. If you really want to know it they by all means, read Howard, Lieber and Moorcock or not, that is you choice. You do not need a in depth knowledge of S&S to understand whether you would be interested in Greyhawk.

I guess, but it seemed by the others that it couldn't be explained without that knowledge, which would tell me I need a rather in-depth knowledge of the subject matter to even start getting an idea. Far more than a simple summary.

They might have been wrong about how much I needed to understand Greyhawk, but I would say that to understand the Genre I probably need more.


The exact rule is: Khelben Blackstaff is at a minimum of 27th level and he is always 5 levels above any PCs in any cases. That is the kind of power you see in FR that you don't in Greyhawk.

Okay, is the issue that he is level 27 (I thought the game was still limited to like level 20 in 2e when FR was getting big)? Or is it the scaling of being stronger if dealing with level 23 parties?

And, in 1e when greyhawk was being made, wasn't level 17 also just ridiculous? I remember hearing that, playing RAW, it could take two years of real time to get to level 9. With that sort of time scale, isn't the difference between 17 and 27 almost arbitrary?

I admit not knowing much about how levels worked in very early DnD.
 

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