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


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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Personally, I have no need of such a product, and neither do most existing fans of the setting. They'll only get so much out of it. You seem to want to capture a new generation of fans for the setting. This is not in any way a bad idea.....but I think that the question then becomes: "how do you make Greyhawk seem as awesome to people today as it did to the early gamers?"

And that's kind of tough.
To the extent that making any great product is, yes. Of course! Almost by definition, it is harder to make good things than to make bad things.

But a re-imagined or re-engineered Greyhawk should, foremost, not cater to the nostalgia of old fans; instead, it should primarily be a vehicle so that new fans have play experiences that, in 20, 30, 40, and 50 years from now, they will recall with nostalgia.

This isn't that hard; the She-Ra cartoon of today is not the same as the one that came before. Mad Max was re-imagined for a new generation. Westworld had one season of a re-telling of an older story.* If you move farther out, you can turn the genre even farther- such as re-imaging a noir in a high school like Brick.

Which I covered in this thread-

On the other hand, Gus Van Sant's Psycho, while an interesting from a technical perspective, suffered as a slavish recreation.


Give a great creator the ability to re-imagine it for the people of today. Heck, release it at the same time as a M:TG set. Us old will always be able to wave around our Folios and our 1983 box sets and tell the players today to get off our lawn- but this is a fundamental part of D&D, practically the origin story, that needs to be kept alive.


*Westworld was cancelled after one season. This is the truth, and you will not convince me otherwise.
 

@Snarf Zagyg Okay, so I think then that what we're doing is actually ignoring those that are already passionate about Greyhawk, right? Or at least, focusing less on pleasing them and instead trying to find a way to make the setting appeal to a new audience. If that's the approach, then I think it may be possible.

I think the best approach would be to use the boxed set as a starting point for the lore and nations. Focus on some of the elements that you indicated in your OP were what makes GH different than the Realms (the quasi-post-apocalyptic vibe, the blank spots on the map, the focus on neutrality, the toned down level of fantasy, etc.). Make those things very central to the material in every way you can. Give mechanical rules for these elements so that they're a focus of play. Give suggestions about how to make the setting feel like a sword & sorcery story. Give some suggestions about how all the options in the PHB could potentially fit into this setting and maintain that feel.

This seems like a much more achievable goal to me than going with an approach that tries to please the existing fans while also appealing to new ones.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
@Snarf Zagyg Okay, so I think then that what we're doing is actually ignoring those that are already passionate about Greyhawk, right? Or at least, focusing less on pleasing them and instead trying to find a way to make the setting appeal to a new audience. If that's the approach, then I think it may be possible.
I wouldn't say ignore. Well, it depends on the value of ignore? I wouldn't cater to them. But I would include (perhaps) bits of fan service, and would seek to find some themes from "Old Greyhawk" to accentuate and play up.

But the best way to please people is to make a good product. :)

I think the best approach would be to use the boxed set as a starting point for the lore and nations. Focus on some of the elements that you indicated in your OP were what makes GH different than the Realms (the quasi-post-apocalyptic vibe, the blank spots on the map, the focus on neutrality, the toned down level of fantasy, etc.). Make those things very central to the material in every way you can. Give mechanical rules for these elements so that they're a focus of play. Give suggestions about how to make the setting feel like a sword & sorcery story. Give some suggestions about how all the options in the PHB could potentially fit into this setting and maintain that feel.

This seems like a much more achievable goal to me than going with an approach that tries to please the existing fans while also appealing to new ones.
Totally agree. The main area where I disagree with people is when they insist or argue that Greyhawk should be a "kitchen sink" setting; we don't need an alternate Forgotten Realms. There should be a reason to play to it.
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
The thing is, I wouldn't be interested in buying a book that basically says "all the things you like about D&D? Sorry, you cannot enjoy them in Greyhawk". Because that's what that approach suggest. And I don't enjoy the 80s-90s D&D tropes. I barely tolerate them in my table.

I maybe a minory, but that hypothetical book is one I will not buy.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The thing is, I wouldn't be interested in buying a book that basically says "all the things you like about D&D? Sorry, you cannot enjoy them in Greyhawk". Because that's what that approach suggest. And I don't enjoy the 80s-90s D&D tropes. I barely tolerate them in my table.

I maybe a minory, but that hypothetical book is one I will not buy.
Every ... single ... setting ... book released has added or changed the default of D&D in 5e.

Nevertheless, whenever this subject comes up with Greyhawk, people always want to make it into Forgotten Realms 2. Which is funny on so many levels. We already have a default setting in 5e.

Did everyone here stamp their feet at say, "Can't have Theros at my table! Can't have Ravnica! I really hate it when WoTC releases settings that are in any way different than the core rulebooks! Man, can't have that!"

.... and yet, in every single theoretical conversation about Greyhawk, this happens.
 

Aldarc

Legend
Totally agree. The main area where I disagree with people is when they insist or argue that Greyhawk should be a "kitchen sink" setting; we don't need an alternate Forgotten Realms. There should be a reason to play to it.
Forgotten Realms and Eberron are both kitchen sink settings, and yet there are ample reasons to play both in 5e. Greyhawk was already fairly kitchen sink, albeit in the context of 1e: it had crashed spaceships for crying out loud! So saying that Greyhawk shouldn't be a "kitchen sink" setting when we already have Forgotten Realms seems to suggest that there is not much that makes Greyhawk unique apart from being slightly less kitchen sink than Forgotten Realms. I would hope that there would be more reasons to play Greyhawk than simply "it's like FR but with less and rarer playable options!"
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
I don't have the Theros setting, but I understand if they said "no D&D here" because Theros is not a D&D setting to begin with. Is a Magic setting ported to D&D. And a setting I'm not interested about, either.

I don't want a "Forgotten Realms 2: Electric Bongaloo" either. What I want is to play what I enjoy. I don't enjoy replaying Lord of the Rings in every D&D game unlike many of you here. And find the idea of anthropocentrism in fantasy highly nonsensical. I'm more of a Warcraft-kind of fantasy guy.

So, yeah, I approach Greyhawk not only as a newbie (I started in 4e, so my starting settings where the maligned 4e Realms and the Nentir Vale), but also as an skeptical. What does Greyhawk has to offer me?

My only experience with Greyhawk so far doesn't help, either. Saltmarsh left a very bad taste in my mouth (a book that encourages the DM to bully you if you play a dragonborn or a tiefling don't qualify as fun in my experience).
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I don't have the Theros setting, but I understand if they said "no D&D here" because Theros is not a D&D setting to begin with. Is a Magic setting ported to D&D. And a setting I'm not interested about, either.

I don't want a "Forgotten Realms 2: Electric Bongaloo" either. What I want is to play what I enjoy. I don't enjoy replaying Lord of the Rings in every D&D game unlike many of you here. And find the idea of anthropocentrism in fantasy highly nonsensical. I'm more of a Warcraft-kind of fantasy guy.
....regarding the bold bit .... I think you might have missed a fundamental argument that has gone on. This is roughly like saying, "I can't stand playing Eberron, because unlike the rest of you, I want to play a changeling Artificer, and Eberron doesn't allow that."

Okay?


So, yeah, I approach Greyhawk not only as a newbie (I started in 4e, so my starting settings where the maligned 4e Realms and the Nentir Vale), but also as an skeptical. What does Greyhawk has to offer me?

My only experience with Greyhawk so far doesn't help, either. Saltmarsh left a very bad taste in my mouth (a book that encourages the DM to bully you if you play a dragonborn or a tiefling don't qualify as fun in my experience).
A fundamental issue is "kitchen sink." I don't much care how they differentiate Greyhawk; after all, I'm not the designer. But any interesting campaign setting uses a combination of restrictions and enhancements; whether it's new races or subclasses or even a new class, these are all ways to make a setting different, in addition to changes of focus or expansions of rules.

No new setting in 5e has simply regurgitated the "kitchen sink" of FR, and it's offensive that Greyhawk be held to that standard when no other setting is, with people saying that they won't buy a setting that they haven't even seen unless it meets the arbitrary demand of being another default setting in 5e (when we already have one).
 

I wouldn't say ignore. Well, it depends on the value of ignore? I wouldn't cater to them. But I would include (perhaps) bits of fan service, and would seek to find some themes from "Old Greyhawk" to accentuate and play up.

But the best way to please people is to make a good product. :)

Totally agree. The main area where I disagree with people is when they insist or argue that Greyhawk should be a "kitchen sink" setting; we don't need an alternate Forgotten Realms. There should be a reason to play to it.
I think I agree. I mean, we could likely split hairs about what "kitchen sink" really means, and how Greyhawk may seem to actually fit that description in some ways......but I think that I agree in that some of what makes Greyhawk interesting are the kind of limits that are in place. It stops short of high fantasy, its civilizations are only so accomplished, etc.

However, I think one of the hardest things to reconcile if they were actually going to craft a new GH setting would be how to honor or instill these limitations while striking the right balance to a more modern approach of not limiting choices for players.

The thing is, I wouldn't be interested in buying a book that basically says "all the things you like about D&D? Sorry, you cannot enjoy them in Greyhawk". Because that's what that approach suggest. And I don't enjoy the 80s-90s D&D tropes. I barely tolerate them in my table.

I maybe a minory, but that hypothetical book is one I will not buy.
I think that you can allow any option in the PHB in a GH setting. I just think that each option that exists.....all races, classes, backgrounds, and so on.....should all be given a GH specific description of how their inclusion will impact the setting. So, for example, Tieflings in GH.....are they a distinct race as we know them in the PHB and other settings? Or is it more a descriptor of any individual that has some fiendish blood in their heritage? How does that change the Tiefling from how it is presented in the PHB? How would a Tiefling character fit into a GH campaign? And so on.

I think simply barring certain options outright would be a bad idea, as it may dissuade some folks from giving the setting a chance. I think it would be far better to kind of try and envision how GH would handle Dragonborn or Tieflings or other elements that didn't really exist as PC options when the setting was introduced.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I think I agree. I mean, we could likely split hairs about what "kitchen sink" really means, and how Greyhawk may seem to actually fit that description in some ways......but I think that I agree in that some of what makes Greyhawk interesting are the kind of limits that are in place. It stops short of high fantasy, its civilizations are only so accomplished, etc.

However, I think one of the hardest things to reconcile if they were actually going to craft a new GH setting would be how to honor or instill these limitations while striking the right balance to a more modern approach of not limiting choices for players.
Well, far be it for me to know how to appeal to the youth of today! I'd probably mumble something about tiktok.

But you don't have to look at restrictions; there are ways that you can play up how intensely weird (gonzo) Greyhawk is as well. How many current fantasy settings include their own crashed spaceship? Portals to Alice in Wonderland? Greyhawk can be both grim and apocalyptic and profoundly bizarre; perhaps playing up the remix is a way to go.
 

Cadence

Hero
Supporter
Greyhawk was already fairly kitchen sink, albeit in the context of 1e: it had crashed spaceships for crying out loud!
That just makes it classic fantasy S&S doesn't it? ;-)

The man-demon reacted to the Mouser's question by slapping himself on the side of his red helmet, as though he'd forgotten something most important. He hurriedly began to explain that he traveled between worlds in a ship (or space-time engine, whatever that might mean) that tended to float just above the water—"a black ship with little lights and masts"—and that the ship had floated away from him in another fog a day ago while he'd been absorbed in taming the newly captured sea-monster. Since then the man-demon, mounted on his now-docile monster, had been fruitlessly searching for his lost vehicle.
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
.regarding the bold bit .... I think you might have missed a fundamental argument that has gone on. This is roughly like saying, "I can't stand playing Eberron, because unlike the rest of you, I want to play a changeling Artificer, and Eberron doesn't allow that."
I may be missing some sarcasm or something, but Eberron encourages you to play what you want, really. You can even play a gnoll (that other settings paint as unredeemable and evulz) and the people in-world wouldn't say anything about it.

I haven't played in Greyhawk, granted, but for what I've read here, and the experience with Saltmarsh, Greyhawk encourages you to only play one of Tolkien's holy quartet or your PC (and you, the player, as well) will live a very bad experience...

No new setting in 5e has simply regurgitated the "kitchen sink" of FR, and it's offensive that Greyhawk be held to that standard when no other setting is, with people saying that they won't buy a setting that they haven't even seen unless it meets the arbitrary demand of being another default setting in 5e (when we already have one).
I don't know if you have read the official 4e conversion of Blackmoor, but I guess you should. But, the setting introduced dragonborn and tieflings and it lost nothing for it. They were no relevant for the setting (dragonborn just have a small delegation in Dragonia, and tieflings are a minority of human mutants), but they are there. People will not discriminate them (I mean, the DM will not bully you-- and the book doesn't encourages it, either). If I want to play one, the setting allows it and with no problems.

Granted, Dave Arneson was still alive when they wrote that book... and Gigax, I don't know if he was as open minded as Arneson.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I may be missing some sarcasm or something....
Yep.

Did you see that giant debate about "Swords and Sorcery" going on? The whole REH/Leiber as opposed to Epic Fantasy, like Tolkien?

So it's kind of funny that this far in, someone would say, "I can't stand Greyhawk because it's making me play Lord of the Rings!"
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
So it's kind of funny that this far in, someone would say, "I can't stand Greyhawk because it's making me play Lord of the Rings!"
As explained before, is not that it forces you to play a human/elf/dwarf/hobb... halfling. But it encourages you to do it in the worst way: the DM has the right (abetted by the rules) to play prejudice against your PC every time they are in town, making your experience as a player in Greyhawk a negative one. Reading some posts, is something that many here will do even if the book didn't encourage it.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
As explained before, is not that it forces you to play a human/elf/dwarf/hobb... halfling. But it encourages you to do it in the worst way: the DM has the right (abetted by the rules) to play prejudice against your PC every time they are in town, making your experience as a player in Greyhawk a negative one. Reading some posts, is something that many here will do even if the book didn't encourage it.
That's weird on a lot of levels. Let me go through them.

1. Greyhawk isn't Lord of the Rings. That's pretty simple.

2. If you're playing "old school" (as in with 1e tables of racial adjustments), your problem isn't just tieflings; it's also relationships with elves and dwarves (for example) or any "monstrous" race, and so on. Fear of outsiders is not uncommon in some older modules (memorably, Ravenloft). But this isn't old school- I am advocating for a 5e Greyhawk.

3. The reason that "Tieflings" would be viewed suspiciously in a place like Keoland ... is because most beings with infernal or demonic heritage were a big problem in areas of Greyhawk- because of Iuz and the Great Kingdom (to use two examples). This would be similar to saying, "I know I'm I chose to play an Orc, and I know that this village is repeatedly ransacked by orcs, but it isn't fair that the villagers are suspicious of me!" Or to use a more modern example, "Sure, I chose to play an evil monk that belongs to the fascist and racist Scarlet Brotherhood, and I realize that the elves I'm hanging out with found out about it, but why don't they like me?"

4. All of that said ... I don't care! Really! I think I have now repeated 5,492 times in these threads (numbers are approximate) that nothing ... nothing is annoying as the Dragonborn canard. I do not care if you play a Dragonborn. I do not care if a new Greyhawk has some allotment for "seafaring" Dragonborn, or their own Kingdom in the land of black ice, or Hemponoland, or whatever. I do not care if they are treated with hostility, or treated as a curiosity, or treated with genuflection as if they sprung fully formed from the brow of Gygax ready to save Oerth. This is literally the least interesting thing about a setting, ever.

And I am beside myself that WoTC has managed to publish settings without Dragonborn with nary a squeak (but it's fine because REASONS!).... and yet there is the same bizarre debate that keeps coming up?

I honestly do not understand this. I could care less if Dragonborn are an invasive alien species that crash landed in the Barrier Peaks. Good?
 

Zeromaru X

Arkhosian scholar and coffee lover
Fear of outsiders is not uncommon in some older modules (memorably, Ravenloft). But this isn't old school- I am advocating for a 5e Greyhawk.
Yet, there is that paragraph in 5e Saltmarsh encouraging the DM to sent angry mobs to any player who is not rolling a Tolkenian character...

And I am beside myself that WoTC has managed to publish settings without Dragonborn with nary a squeak (but it's fine because REASONS!).... and yet there is the same bizarre debate that keeps coming up?
AFAIK, the only settings without dragonborn are Magic ones, so... and even, they don't discourage you to play one. They just don't present them as native choices. And that is fine. The point is saying "yes you can, but..." instead of "no you can't. Period".

But I get your point.
 

Bupp

Explorer
The old school fan who doesn’t want anything updated and is still running out of the 1983 box is already not a potential customer. They’re not going to buy a 5e Greyhawk because they are not in the market for one. You make a 5e Greyhawk for those who are open to it and never concern with those who put themselves out of the demographic for it.
I agree with this, and I'm getting ready to start a new campaign set in the 1983 Boxed Set Greyhawk. I've come around on this. I'm a grognard that sees unlimited use in that box. I don't like everything in From the Ashes, but do I pick out bits and pieces that I like ala carte for my Greyhawk. Damn right. I'm not as familiar with the Living Greyhawk stuff, (I was away from D&D for an era), but I've used bits from that as well.

So I say build a Greyhawk for today. I'd be happy for another source to cherry pick ideas from.

But you don't have to look at restrictions; there are ways that you can play up how intensely weird (gonzo) Greyhawk is as well. How many current fantasy settings include their own crashed spaceship? Portals to Alice in Wonderland? Greyhawk can be both grim and apocalyptic and profoundly bizarre; perhaps playing up the remix is a way to go.
That's Greyhawk. Dark Gonzo.
 

Well, far be it for me to know how to appeal to the youth of today! I'd probably mumble something about tiktok.

But you don't have to look at restrictions; there are ways that you can play up how intensely weird (gonzo) Greyhawk is as well. How many current fantasy settings include their own crashed spaceship? Portals to Alice in Wonderland? Greyhawk can be both grim and apocalyptic and profoundly bizarre; perhaps playing up the remix is a way to go.
Absolutely, there are tons of ways you can play up the themes beyond the restrictions. But they tend to be a major element for many folks who enjoy the setting, so they do seem at least a bit relevant. Even in my own Greyhawk games where we've been much more liberal with what's "allowed" in the setting, it's still a factor in that they help define the setting.

I think that making the more gonzo elements a bit more prominent would likely be a good way toward presenting the setting. There are varied elements that allow you to approach a game in different ways. I think this is where you push up against the idea of a kitchen sink, but I agree with you that the spectrum should be a bit more narrow. I think the general tone should be a bit dark, and should focus on how the world has kind of moved on, but that doesn't mean there can't be places for more whimsical or less grim elements.
 

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