D&D General Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, and Canon: Stare Decisis in D&D


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Scribe

Legend
Games Workshop handles canon in an interesting way. When they want to ignore lore that isn't convenient they just ignore it. They might do this by saying a particular faction was eaten by the Tyranid. They don't make in a point to repudiate the lore, they just ignore it in all future productions. When they want to make a change, they just tell their audience something was always a part of the lore even if it's a lie or they change their minds and suddenly bring something back that's been gone for decades.

Is anyone really going to be upset if dragonborn are suddenly in Greyhawk? That's a rhetorical question, of course someone is going to be upset. Does it matter if they're upset? I'm not sure the answer is yes.

How GW treats their lore is egregiously bad. I absolutely hate it, only slightly less than I hate their current metaplot.
 

So while I also love the openness of Greyhawk for individual development, I also really appreciate the work that's was in that world previously -- Hommlet, Against the Giants, Vault of the Drow, Tomb of Horrors, Against the Slavers. I never played the later 2e adventures, so maybe it changed, I dunno.

In any case, the Greyhawk I played always felt a bit more brutal to me, more dangerous, more silo'd between countries. Open but on the verge of tipping toward evil. It always felt a bit like good characters were the exception rather than the norm, but that if you wanted to be good, you needed to pretty damn tough. I don't know if that's my own interpretation after playing all those modules back in the day, or whether it was intended. I guess I'm happy with the 5e edition, that they are leaving that interpretation up to me.
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Forgotten Realms Adventures, the companion piece to Greyhawk Adventures and Dragonlance Adventures in that 1E/2E hardcover grey zone...
I wouldn't so much call it a grey zone. While these three books are thematically very similar, introducing more detailed setting material and mechanics for their respective worlds, only Greyhawk Adventures was really in any kind of "grey zone". It was the last hardcover released for 1E, in 1988, when they already had release dates for 2E and so they tried to make sure it was compatible with both (and put a blurb saying so on the cover).

FRA was released in 1990 and contains conversion notes for updating existing 1E FR campaigns to the 2E rules, but all the rules content is 2nd ed.

DLA was released in '87 and is a purely 1E product.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
I wouldn't so much call it a grey zone. While these three books are thematically very similar, introducing more detailed setting material and mechanics for their respective worlds, only Greyhawk Adventures was really in any kind of "grey zone". It was the last hardcover released for 1E, in 1988, when they already had release dates for 2E and so they tried to make sure it was compatible with both (and put a blurb saying so on the cover).

FRA was released in 1990 and contains conversion notes for updating existing 1E FR campaigns to the 2E rules, but all the rules content is 2nd ed.

DLA was released in '87 and is a purely 1E product.

This isn't worthy of its own thread, so I'm going to post it here.

1e had amazing hardcover books. But the last great hardcover book in 1e was ....


My pick- OA.

Brief argument-
OA, despite being ... let's say flawed from the modern perspective ... was a genuinely good rules-book. Every book after that had such serious problems that it can't be considered great.
UA- don't get me started on the cash grab.
WSG/DSG- meh.
DLA/GHA- super meh.

So here's the only possible issue with my argument. I do acknowledge that Manual of the Planes was better than the utter mediocrity (or worse) that was the 1e hardcover books from December '85 until 2e. But I've also said that I think that MoTP made a mistake in the way it treated alternate prime material planes, which is a major demerit. So I'd say that it doesn't quite hit high enough to justify putting it in and allowing the other hardcovers to slip in.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
Man, am I the only one who loved the 1e Dungeoneers Survival Guide? And the Wilderness SG as well?

Hey, I think other people liked it too, and I'm not going to yuck your yum.

But I can recall getting the books. Because ... NEW AD&D HARDCOVERS! OMG! SO EXCITING!

And then I started reading them ... and I was like ... oh, this will let me generate weather? So ... awesome.

It didn't feel magical and wonderful. It felt like a really long Dragon Article. Which makes since, given Kim Mohan wrote the WSG.

(The DSG was marginally more interesting, but still unessential, IMO).
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
1e had amazing hardcover books. But the last great hardcover book in 1e was ....

My pick- OA.

Brief argument-
OA, despite being ... let's say flawed from the modern perspective ... was a genuinely good rules-book. Every book after that had such serious problems that it can't be considered great.
UA- don't get me started on the cash grab.
WSG/DSG- meh.
DLA/GHA- super meh.

So here's the only possible issue with my argument. I do acknowledge that Manual of the Planes was better than the utter mediocrity (or worse) that was the 1e hardcover books from December '85 until 2e. But I've also said that I think that MoTP made a mistake in the way it treated alternate prime material planes, which is a major demerit. So I'd say that it doesn't quite hit high enough to justify putting it in and allowing the other hardcovers to slip in.
I agree that OA is probably the best of the bunch. It has its issues, but it's a playable setting with interesting new classes and rules options, and some neat new ideas like the campaign events table.

UA contains mostly garbage. There are a few useful rules patches like the rules for spellbooks*, and expanded rules in the magic items and some of the additional spells. But the classes and Comeliness and social classes and weapon specialization and the munchkined races and most of it are trash.

WSG is even worse than UA. The weather systems are totally impractical. The proficiencies and sub-systems are at a fiddliness level that is the opposite of useful. Delta of Delta's D&D Hotspot has talked about how trying to implement the weather systems destroyed his college AD&D campaign, because they were so cumbersome but he was too stubborn to just chuck those systems in the trash where they belong.

DSG has some neat ideas for underdark adventuring, but overall has very little value. Barely more than WSG.

GHA I agree is pretty meh. There's some decent setting material, some neat new spells and magic items and monsters, but it never really grabbed me.

DLA is much more substantive and I think I'd rate it the best of the bunch if I were more interested in Krynn as a setting.

MotP I put in much the same category as the DSG and WSG. It's a book full of details about places your characters could go, which is full of systems to make the whole thing unplayably tedious and un-fun.

I might rank them something like:

1. OA
2. DLA
3. UA (for rules patches, magic items, a few spells)
4. GHA
5. DSG
6. MotP
7. WSG

*(Edit: Although even here, the evident lack of playtesting is glaring. The rules for how many spells a book can contain are really awkwardly phrased. And the MASSIVE value of captured spellbooks means that gems and jewelry and magic items, formerly at the top of the heap, look like poor cousins compared to a spellbook. People used to joke about knocking off first level spellcasters for their spellbook -worth at least 2,000xp or 4,000gp fresh out of apprenticeship)-being the highest value for lowest risk way to farm xp and gold. It really makes it look like Gary didn't think at all about how valuable these things would be for players to capture from enemy mages.)
 
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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Supporter
MotP I put in much the same category as the DSG and WSG. It's a book full of details about places your characters could go, which is full of systems to make the whole thing unplayably tedious and un-fun.

I might rank them something like:

1. OA
2. DLA
3. UA (for rules patches, magic items, a few spells)
4. GHA
5. DSG
6. MotP
7. WSG

...well said.

Brief comments-

I agree with you about MoTP. I think I was being overly nice to it because I've seen a lot of people that like it. I never used it other than to briefly look something up, and the actual mechanics are, as you correctly point out, unusable and/or unfun.

I also concur on DLA. I don't think it's good enough to overcome the general mediocrity of the post-OA books, but I do recall actually enjoying parts of it, especially compared to the modules. Never used it though. I might put GHA at 3 instead of 4 only because UA's few good things are far outweighed by how terrible the bad things were, and how it messed up a lot of tables for a while.

WSG is, IMO, the absolute worst. .... sorry @the Jester
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
I also concur on DLA. I don't think it's good enough to overcome the general mediocrity of the post-OA books, but I do recall actually enjoying parts of it, especially compared to the modules. Never used it though. I might put GHA at 3 instead of 4 only because UA's few good things are far outweighed by how terrible the bad things were, and how it messed up a lot of tables for a while.
In practice UA still gets used by me the most, for the few useful bits it has. Whereas OA, DLA, and GHA will generally only get used if I'm running or playing in those settings. DLA has definitely seen the second-most use for me, because I've had a couple of friends who really enjoy the setting.
 

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