Greyhawk Elevator Pitch?

...I've tried a couple times to get into Greyhawk, but as a setting it never really grabbed me. I am thinking that maybe it has to do with me not coming at it from the right angle. With Ghosts of the Saltmarsh out, I'd like to get excited about Greyhawk.

So far, I understand that Greyhawk was 1) the original DnD setting, 2) has a little bit of everything, 3) Somewhat low magic (though how you reconcile that with point 2 is interesting) and 4) has some science-fantasy elements kicking around the corners. Thats not enough to hang my hat on though, especially as I dont have nostalgia going for me.

Anyone willing to try a Greyhawk elevator pitch to sell the setting? What makes Greyhawk different and exciting?
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest
Neutral isn't just a little space between Good and Evil - there is an actual faction (the Circle of Eight as led by Mordenkainen) that actively tries to keep things in balance.
 

Parmandur

Legend
...I've tried a couple times to get into Greyhawk, but as a setting it never really grabbed me. I am thinking that maybe it has to do with me not coming at it from the right angle. With Ghosts of the Saltmarsh out, I'd like to get excited about Greyhawk.

So far, I understand that Greyhawk was 1) the original DnD setting, 2) has a little bit of everything, 3) Somewhat low magic (though how you reconcile that with point 2 is interesting) and 4) has some science-fantasy elements kicking around the corners. Thats not enough to hang my hat on though, especially as I dont have nostalgia going for me.

Anyone willing to try a Greyhawk elevator pitch to sell the setting? What makes Greyhawk different and exciting?
It's basically just standard, by the book D&D, without the metaplot weight of a ton of popular novels and regular cataclysms common to the Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance.

The lack of major distinction is basically the selling point: it's generic fantasy, with room for whichever kind of story you want (ancient Mayan temple ruins? Sure. Arabian Nights? Sure. Grissly Medieval urban shenanigans? Sure.), and the room to move from one kind to another across the map. The old 80's boxed set is cheap on DMsGuild, and is worth the time to read. Nothing else is needed to run the setting as-is from the core rulebooks.
 
"Idiosyncratic setting with funny names allows you to journey into the uniquely strange imagination of Gary Gygax; probably not for those under 40, unless you're a collector of eight-tracks and miniatures made of actual lead."
 

aco175

Explorer
I'm kind of in the same boat. I started collecting FR back in the 80s and then got into making my own settings and never got into Greyhawk. 5e has me default back to FR with the boxed set and just expanding some things from there.
 

epithet

Explorer
...I've tried a couple times to get into Greyhawk, but as a setting it never really grabbed me. I am thinking that maybe it has to do with me not coming at it from the right angle. With Ghosts of the Saltmarsh out, I'd like to get excited about Greyhawk.

So far, I understand that Greyhawk was 1) the original DnD setting, 2) has a little bit of everything, 3) Somewhat low magic (though how you reconcile that with point 2 is interesting) and 4) has some science-fantasy elements kicking around the corners. Thats not enough to hang my hat on though, especially as I dont have nostalgia going for me.

Anyone willing to try a Greyhawk elevator pitch to sell the setting? What makes Greyhawk different and exciting?
The World of Greyhawk is different from The Forgotten Realms in large part because of the approach taken by their respective creators.

The Realms was first conceived of by Ed Greenwood as a childhood fantasy, a world where his imagination could run wild and populate it with magical people and things, and put some dark and dangerous elements in there for them to fight and be heroic. It has come a long way since, and has been expanded by countless different creators, but it's core remains the space between "Once upon a time" and "happily ever after."

Greyhawk, by contrast, was conceived as a backdrop and connective tissue for dungeon crawls. The world was created by wargamer, to link together campaigns created by wargamers. That means a few things:
1: The setting exists to give you a place to put your campaign in relation to other campaigns, and to give you some ideas for your campaign. That means that a lot of the world is waiting for you to define it.
2: The defining element of the world is conflict, most often in the form of warfare. The kingdoms of Oerth fight for territory and power. The religions of Oerth fight for followers. The races fight for survival. It is possible and reasonable for a Lawful Good character to be in conflict with another group of Lawful Good NPCs, and in fact the setting presupposes that Law and Good are almost as dangerous as Chaos and Evil. Only the path of balance offers any hope of long-term respite.
3: Most people want to kill you. The primary human cultures around the area of the Free City of Greyhawk are the Flan, the Aerdi, the Suel, and the Baklunish. They all resent each other and carry millenia of racial animosity. The elves and dwarves don't much like each other, or humans. Most groups of elves and dwarves will give you a chance to persuade them not to kill you, but don't count on it. The exception is the large commercial centers, where your worth is measured in what you can buy or what you have to sell, with little regard for your race or culture. Of course, alliances between these groups form quickly in the face of a greater threat, but trust comes very slowly.
4: The world is mostly cruising along in the mid-to late middle ages with little magic beyond what a hedge mage or acolyte can command. There are areas that are exceptions, some barely out of the bronze age and some experiencing a Renaissance. Some areas are home to cosmic-level magic, and some remote, secret places hide technology beyond understanding, either from other worlds or from a past so remote as to be before the time of legends.

Here's your elevator pitch: Thousands of years of war between cultures, races, gods, and ideologies have created a world of deep grudges and strange bedfellows. Threats abound, and the promise of civilization offered by the Great Kingdom has proved to be empty. To keep the Flanaess from being consumed by tyranny, slaughter, and worse, the bloody-handed marauder has as great a role to play as the righteous paladin. These are interesting times.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
...I've tried a couple times to get into Greyhawk, but as a setting it never really grabbed me. I am thinking that maybe it has to do with me not coming at it from the right angle. With Ghosts of the Saltmarsh out, I'd like to get excited about Greyhawk.

So far, I understand that Greyhawk was 1) the original DnD setting,
Blackmoor has the better claim of being the "original" DnD setting (http://www.secretsofblackmoor.com/blog).

2) has a little bit of everything,
Kinda. I would say it is more, "there is a place for a little bit of everything." The original Grey Hawk setting was more of an outline that the DM was expected to fill in. It did the work that many people find the most challenging, giving you a professional and evocative map and a bit of information about major realms and groups, and also tables for random encounters, determining population and weather, pantheon of gods, etc., but leaves most of the details for the DM to fill in. Mike Mearls is a fan of the setting and discusses why in a "Lore You Should Know" segment on the February 7th, 2019 episode of Dragon Talk (http://dnd.wizards.com/podcast-category/dragon-talk?page=1).

But since the 80s, when I had the Greyhawk boxed set, there have been additional settings books published for Greyhawk, organized play (Living Greyhawk), and novels. Perhaps if you include all that when you say "Greyhawk setting" it is more of a kitchen-sink setting. I don't know. I'm only familiar with the original box set.

3) Somewhat low magic (though how you reconcile that with point 2 is interesting)
I've never seen it as low magic. Some of D&D's most iconic and powerful spell casters come from Greyhawk. But this impression may come from the fact that Gary Gygax was not a huge fan of wizards and purposefully made them very squishy at low levels. Wizards were weak...until they were not. Maybe you are not spamming firebolt all day at 1st level, but at high levels your wizards was quite powerful. Besides, that was mechanics. I don't recall the setting having much to say on magic levels, except that many of the groups discussed in the Overview of Political Divisions section are headed by powerful wizards and clerics. There are areas whose histories describe massive magical attacks in the past (e.g. the "Sea of Dust"). There are gods of magic. Encounter tables are rife with clerics, druids, illusionists, and magic users.

I really do not think it is accurate to call Greyhawk a "low magic" campaign setting.


and 4) has some science-fantasy elements kicking around the corners.
There are adventures that throw in some sci fi, but the settings books themselves really don't. If you are looking for a mix of fantasy chocolate and sci fi peanut butter, you'd be better off at looking at the Numenera setting that is being converted to 5e (Arcana of the Ancients kickstarter).


Thats not enough to hang my hat on though, especially as I dont have nostalgia going for me.
If you are looking for a rich and highly detailed setting book for 5e, and are not nolstalgic for any setting from a prior edition, I think the best settings are published by 3rd parties. For high quality, very rich, settings that take a traditional fantasy approach, I would look at:

Kobold Press: Midgard Setting (https://koboldpress.com/midgard/). Darker than Forgotten Realms and not as saddled by the expanded lore and canon arguments. Kobold Press materials are excellent. Well written with good mechanics that balanced for 5e, but leaning on the more difficult side. In addition to the setting book, there are character option books, cult books, and more. Pretty much everything you would want for a fleshed out D&D campaign. Also, much of this is available in digital tools like RealmWorks, Hero Labs, and various VTTs.

Frog God Games: Lost Lands. 40 years in the making. There is an old-school flavor to these materials, many of which were written for prior editions. Many of the best adventures and setting books have been updated to 5e, such as Bards Gate, Rappan Atthuk, and many of the adventure books. They are currently Kickstarting the first full campaign guide for the Lost Lands. Like Kobold Press, FGG has excellent production values (though not quite up to par with Kobold Press when it comes to editing). Also, they are doing some very cool things with this setting. First, it will be available on World Anvil, an online campaign-management system, if you want to have a digital version of the setting. Also, they will be opening much of it up with an open gaming license so you can not only use the setting for your personal campaign, but you can create your own adventures and other material for the setting and sell it.

Anyone willing to try a Greyhawk elevator pitch to sell the setting? What makes Greyhawk different and exciting?
If you have not read through Greyhawk, spend the $8 and get the PDFs from DMs Guild:

https://www.dmsguild.com/product/17392/World-of-Greyhawk-Fantasy-Game-Setting-1e?term=World+of+Greyhawk

It gives you a good sense of D&D's flavor in the 1st edition era. While many of the complicated tables do not match the preferences of modern-day players (e.g., pages of weather tables, discussion on frost bite and how wearing gloves effects casting spells with somatic components, migration patterns, a chapter on the trees found in the setting), the book still remains a trove of DM inspiration that is easy to browse and steal what you want. It was meant as a kit for DMs to kick-start their own world building.

And the map remains one of the most evocative and influential pieces of art in TTRPG history. See pages 108 and 109 in the book Art and Arcana and Eye of the Beholder: The Art of Dungeons and

Hope that helps.
 

Azzy

Cyclone Ranger
Do you want a secret society of monks and assassins dedicated to world conquest and racial domination? Or a imprisoned, insane god that wants to destroy all of reality? A once great kingdom that has been sundered under the rule of a mad king and a coalition of its once vassal states dedicated to mutual defence and opposition of the kingdom's oppressive and expansionist rule? Pirate kingdoms? A hald-demon demigon that rule from a throne of bones that threatens the borders of goodly nations?
 

Nebulous

Adventurer
It's basically just standard, by the book D&D, without the metaplot weight of a ton of popular novels and regular cataclysms common to the Forgotten Realms or Dragonlance.

The lack of major distinction is basically the selling point: it's generic fantasy, with room for whichever kind of story you want (ancient Mayan temple ruins? Sure. Arabian Nights? Sure. Grissly Medieval urban shenanigans? Sure.), and the room to move from one kind to another across the map. The old 80's boxed set is cheap on DMsGuild, and is worth the time to read. Nothing else is needed to run the setting as-is from the core rulebooks.
It is no different from Forgotten Realms, it is all generic fantasy. Add and remove and replace whatever you like, and if you're running a pregen module campaign it hardly matters, just the names of gods and cities change.
 

Parmandur

Legend
It is no different from Forgotten Realms, it is all generic fantasy. Add and remove and replace whatever you like, and if you're running a pregen module campaign it hardly matters, just the names of gods and cities change.
Well, sure: that's the pitch. Forgotten Reslms has a different spice profile (more Narnia & Tolkien, big dose of Hippy-Dippiness, less Medieval and more Reannisance), but the genericness is the selling point for tabletop RPG purposes.
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
...I've tried a couple times to get into Greyhawk, but as a setting it never really grabbed me. I am thinking that maybe it has to do with me not coming at it from the right angle. With Ghosts of the Saltmarsh out, I'd like to get excited about Greyhawk.

So far, I understand that Greyhawk was 1) the original DnD setting, 2) has a little bit of everything, 3) Somewhat low magic (though how you reconcile that with point 2 is interesting) and 4) has some science-fantasy elements kicking around the corners. Thats not enough to hang my hat on though, especially as I dont have nostalgia going for me.

Anyone willing to try a Greyhawk elevator pitch to sell the setting? What makes Greyhawk different and exciting?
A few of your assumptions are a bit incorrect, but to be honest, they're close enough. Others have mentioned a few, and I started writing my own corrections, but it all came out being a bit petty.

So, the big advantage to Greyhawk is that it's the easiest drop and play published setting, save for perhaps Mystara. Depending on the amount of information you want, you can pick up a book or two and get started. The two best sources would be the 1983 Boxed Set (1E) and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (3E), but the From the Ashes boxed set (2E) could be used depending on the kind of game you want to run. All of them pretty much provide an amount of information for the setting, with varying degrees of details (later editions are more detailed). The information is enough to give the DM ideas, but limited enough for the DM to fill in with their own ideas. It is the perfect balance between the work of making your own setting and the constrictions many other published settings place on the DM with existing canon.

The other huge advantage that Greyhawk has is the variety of regions for adventure. A Game of Thrones style game can be easily placed in the Great Kingdom (an empire crumbling in on itself). Vikings live in the far northeast, with 4 semi-allied factions. A game about defending the free people against a tyranical empire can be done in Nyrond and the Iron League holding off the Great Kingdom. Urban intrigue, with a massive sewer system can be found in the Free City of Greyhawk. A game about knights facing the forces of an evil god can be found in Furyondy, the Shield Lands, and Velona agains the Empire of Iuz. Political and economic rivalries between good nations can be found between the Nations of Furyondy and Nyrond. the Bright Desert and the Vast Swamp can provide adventure in harsh enviroments, as can the jungles of Armedo and Hepmonaland with its Incan-like savages. The Baklunish basin in the northwest provide arabian adventures, while the Wolf and Tiger Nomads provide barbarian culture adventure. Blackmoor, the Land of Black Ice, and the legendary City of the Gods to the far north provide arctic adventures, spiced with the strange. Piracy can be found from the Sea Barons and the Sea Princes. Pretty much every type of adventure and campaign can be found in the Flanaess (the area Greyhawk focuses on) EXCEPT for oriental adventures, which was originally worked on by Gygax, but never officially installed (Kara Tur was originally supposed to be on the other side of the world from the Flanaess, but TSR moved it to Realms instead).

If I had to put an actual downside to Greyhawk, it's the deities. In no edition do they do a sufficient job explaining why there are so many overlapping gods, nor explain the hodgepodge pantheon system laid out. If having clear religions is a big deal for you, this can be an issue.
 

Parmandur

Legend
A few of your assumptions are a bit incorrect, but to be honest, they're close enough. Others have mentioned a few, and I started writing my own corrections, but it all came out being a bit petty.

So, the big advantage to Greyhawk is that it's the easiest drop and play published setting, save for perhaps Mystara. Depending on the amount of information you want, you can pick up a book or two and get started. The two best sources would be the 1983 Boxed Set (1E) and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (3E), but the From the Ashes boxed set (2E) could be used depending on the kind of game you want to run. All of them pretty much provide an amount of information for the setting, with varying degrees of details (later editions are more detailed). The information is enough to give the DM ideas, but limited enough for the DM to fill in with their own ideas. It is the perfect balance between the work of making your own setting and the constrictions many other published settings place on the DM with existing canon.

The other huge advantage that Greyhawk has is the variety of regions for adventure. A Game of Thrones style game can be easily placed in the Great Kingdom (an empire crumbling in on itself). Vikings live in the far northeast, with 4 semi-allied factions. A game about defending the free people against a tyranical empire can be done in Nyrond and the Iron League holding off the Great Kingdom. Urban intrigue, with a massive sewer system can be found in the Free City of Greyhawk. A game about knights facing the forces of an evil god can be found in Furyondy, the Shield Lands, and Velona agains the Empire of Iuz. Political and economic rivalries between good nations can be found between the Nations of Furyondy and Nyrond. the Bright Desert and the Vast Swamp can provide adventure in harsh enviroments, as can the jungles of Armedo and Hepmonaland with its Incan-like savages. The Baklunish basin in the northwest provide arabian adventures, while the Wolf and Tiger Nomads provide barbarian culture adventure. Blackmoor, the Land of Black Ice, and the legendary City of the Gods to the far north provide arctic adventures, spiced with the strange. Piracy can be found from the Sea Barons and the Sea Princes. Pretty much every type of adventure and campaign can be found in the Flanaess (the area Greyhawk focuses on) EXCEPT for oriental adventures, which was originally worked on by Gygax, but never officially installed (Kara Tur was originally supposed to be on the other side of the world from the Flanaess, but TSR moved it to Realms instead).

If I had to put an actual downside to Greyhawk, it's the deities. In no edition do they do a sufficient job explaining why there are so many overlapping gods, nor explain the hodgepodge pantheon system laid out. If having clear religions is a big deal for you, this can be an issue.
To the gods point, I think Gygax wanted to create something like the chaos of the Hellenistic Middle East, with mishmashes of different cultures floating around.
 

gyor

Adventurer
One thing people don't know is that Greyhawk is a lot smaller then FR, not just in terms lore, but actual physical size, so exploring the breadth of Oerth might be more managable.

See with each edition of D&D FR just gets well, bigger, sometimes a lot bigger.

You've got Faerun, which is bigger by itself I think then GH main continent, but then you have Kara Tur that dwarfs Faerun and real world Asia (I mean Kara Tur is freaking big). Then you have Zakhara and Maztica, Katashaka, Osse, Archrome, and that is just Toril, there is also Abeir which has Shyr and Laekrond convenients.

Then you have more planets like Glyph, Garden, and more.

You also have some big demiplanes like the Celestial Nadir, we are talking about demiplanes big enough to store nations.

Then you have mirror planes images of them all, the Shadowfell and Feywild for all of it (except demiplanes and outer planes). The Towers of Night planein 4e was the literally an afterlife that was the size of a planet.

Greyhawk is much smaller, so fewer regions to keep track of. Of course that is also itself down side.
 

gyor

Adventurer
To the gods point, I think Gygax wanted to create something like the chaos of the Hellenistic Middle East, with mishmashes of different cultures floating around.
Hellenistic era was a spiritual golden age that lead to Hermetism, Neoplatonism, and new forms of Buddhism, Astrology, Gnostism, Mystery Cults, and more.

You can absolutely see the influence of this era on D&D. If anyone asks you why Gods like Zeus and Hephaestus have what seem like Christian Angels in D&D it goes all the way back to the Chaldean Oracles and later Neoplatonism.

Yeah Olympian Angels predates Christian Angels, so D&D angels serving a Polythiestic Pantheon makes sense.

FRs main Pantheon is very Hellenistic as well as it's the result of a bunch of older pantheons merging, along with new members joining.

Mulhorand is almost more Ptolemy in style then pure Egyptian, you can really see the Greek influences on it's otherwise Egyptian Pantheon.
 
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Parmandur

Legend
Hellenistic era was a spiritual golden age that lead to Hermetism, Neoplatonism, and new forms of Buddhism, Astrology, Gnostism, Mystery Cults, and more.

You can absolutely see the influence of this era on D&D. If anyone asks you why Gods like Zeus and Hephaestus have what seem like Christian Angels in D&D it goes all the way back to the Chaldean Oracles and later Neoplatonism.

Yeah Olympian Angels predates Christian Angels, so D&D angels serving a Polythiestic Pantheon makes sense.

FRs main Pantheon is very Hellenistic as well as it's the result of a bunch of older pantheons merging, along with new members joining.

Mulhorand is almost more Ptolemy in style then pure Egyptian, you can really see the Greek influences on it's otherwise Egyptian Pantheon.
Separated substances cannot be said to "precede" or be "preceded" strictly speaking.

What I was referring to was how you can have the Oerdian, Flan, Suel, and Balkunish gods with overlapping and contradictory portfolios, as with Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, etc. deities in the Middle East after Alexander mixed everything up.
 

Paul Farquhar

Adventurer
Do you want a secret society of monks and assassins dedicated to world conquest and racial domination? Or a imprisoned, insane god that wants to destroy all of reality? A once great kingdom that has been sundered under the rule of a mad king and a coalition of its once vassal states dedicated to mutual defence and opposition of the kingdom's oppressive and expansionist rule? Pirate kingdoms? A hald-demon demigon that rule from a throne of bones that threatens the borders of goodly nations?
Isn't that a description of every D&D setting ever?
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
What I was referring to was how you can have the Oerdian, Flan, Suel, and Balkunish gods with overlapping and contradictory portfolios, as with Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian, etc. deities in the Middle East after Alexander mixed everything up.
I could have gotten this had he kept it strictly to ethnic deities, but then he added the "Common Pantheon," which throws things for a complete loop. One of the things I've done for my own campaign is to try and figure out which pantheon each Common deity came from, then have them simply be part of that pantheon, but their worship has spread greatly across the various ethnicity/races. This helps to deal with potential in-pantheon overlap (mostly Ehlonna and Obad-Hai). Given the simple to use nature of Greyhawk, I found this to be a bit annoying, even though I'd guess that most people wouldn't even give it a second thought.
 

gyor

Adventurer
I could have gotten this had he kept it strictly to ethnic deities, but then he added the "Common Pantheon," which throws things for a complete loop. One of the things I've done for my own campaign is to try and figure out which pantheon each Common deity came from, then have them simply be part of that pantheon, but their worship has spread greatly across the various ethnicity/races. This helps to deal with potential in-pantheon overlap (mostly Ehlonna and Obad-Hai). Given the simple to use nature of Greyhawk, I found this to be a bit annoying, even though I'd guess that most people wouldn't even give it a second thought.
That isn't that different from the Faerun Pantheon. The Telfric, Netherese, Jhamdaath, and a few other Pantheons came together, merging as Faeun became more Globalized. Some Gods died, some Gods merged, some Gods like Gargos got demoted to demigod.

Then in 4e, all the Pantheons merged, the surviving racial deities joined the FR Pantheon or died and all Mulhorandi deities except Bastet disappeared.

That then changed with 5e and the racial and Mulhorand and Unther Pantheons returned, but the legacy is in FR some racial deities now have more human worshippers.

Oh and unique to FR the Elven Pantheon absorbed and merged with the Yuirwood Pantheon.
 

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