Greyhawk Elevator Pitch?

Jacob Lewis

The One with the Force
I have tossed it down the elevator shaft many times. But it still keeps finding its way out. (I think Vecna might have a Hand in this.)
 

lowkey13

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.
Greyhawk Elevator Pitches:

1. What if the Forgotten Realms ... didn't suck?

2. It's like Conan and the Gray Mouser ... in Wisconsin!

3. The stupider the names, the better the setting.

4. Valley Elves > Valley Girls. Like, gag me with Murlynd's spoon

5. Anagrams do it better, says Vecna.

6. Finally, a setting that TSR and WOTC left for the DM to eff up!
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Something worth bringing up is that Greyhawk's setting is divided into actual nations bordering each other. The Forgotten Realms has a few nations scattered here and there, but most of the Heartlands and the North (ie, the main areas focused on) is an implausible scattering of city-states and isolated villages surrounded by wilderness. Really? That has always bugged me about Faerun, and Greyhawk's Flanaess is just better in that regard.
 

Parmandur

Legend
Implausible like northern Italy in the 9th to 15th centuries?

One characteristic of Greyhawk is it was created by someone with no knowledge of real world history or geopolitics.
While you are right that there is nothing particularly wrong with the Sword Coast as presented, characterizing Gygax as ignorant of history and geopolitics is equally incorrect.
 

Aldarc

Adventurer
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.
I don't think that anyone asks this, especially given (1) the Greek etymology of "angel," and (2) the long history of "angels" in the West Asian religions (out-of-which came Christianity) that predate the Hellenistic thought you list. (Also, I'm fairly certain that the Chaldean Oracles and Neoplatonism are date to the time after early Christianity.)
 

David Howery

Adventurer
it's been said several times here, but it's an important point... GH is very much a 'DM does a lot of the work' kind of setting. There are a lot of short nation/city notes, quite a few adventure hooks scattered among various supplements, but most of the detail work is left to the DM...
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
I dont Gygax is ‘ignorant’ about history.

I think he intentionally mixes history up, to reinvent a fictional fantastical version of history.

For example, the Monster Manual. The ‘Cloud Giant’ is actually the same giant in the ‘Jack and the Bean Stalk’ tale. But rather than present it via mythological accuracy, Gygax intentionally mashes it up, even with a picture portraying East Asia imagery.

The British folkbelief book, An Encyclopedia of Fairies, inspired many of his ideas. Consider the ‘Drow’, an invention by Gygax. In the book, the drow are a Scottish fairy, a subterranean land spirit, small in size, and working metals. (Ultimately, the Scottish name drow derives etymologically from Old Norse trǫll.) But rather than as is, Gygax intentionally remixes it with an Old Norse text relating to the ‘Dark Alfar’, and misreads this text as if to mean ‘black’ skin. The white hair is his own personal flourish, to make a more fantastical creature. Lolth comes from a romp thru a Jewish midrash relating to Lilith. An obscure Scandinavian folkbelief says Lilith (the first wife of Adam who left Adam and remained immortal) gave birth to all the trǫll, thus explaining the trǫll within a biblical context. Gygax reinvents Lilith as a demonic mother of his drow, who are now a kind of ‘elves’.

And so on. Gygax willfully romps thru the folkbeliefs across any and every spiritual tradition of any and every ethnicity.



Ok, Gygax might have been ignorant about medieval weapons and armors (‘longsword’, ‘ring mail’, etcetera), but he also didnt care.



In my view, I wish Gygax would avoid using reallife names when presenting fictional inventions. If the creature is fiction, the name should be too, I feel. To avoid misrepresentation and to avoid ‘appropriating’ other cultures.

In the case of modifying the name Lilith to ‘Lolth’, Gygax does good. He clearly shows Lolth does not represent the midrash about Lilith, even tho she inspired her.

To find creative inspiration in anything and everything, is what artists do. Fictional names for fictional creatures would solve any nagging issues.
 
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epithet

Explorer
...
One characteristic of Greyhawk is it was created by someone with no knowledge of real world history or geopolitics.
One characteristic of your comment is that you clearly don't know what you're talking about. EGG was an enthusiastic student of history, with an encyclopedic knowledge of medieval European armies, weapons, and warfare.
 

epithet

Explorer
...

Ok, Gygax might have been ignorant about medieval weapons and armors (‘longsword’, ‘ring mail’, etcetera), but he also didnt care.
He was quite knowledgeable, for a layman. His knowledge probably came exclusively from secondary sources, which were limited at the time. Since then, we've had the benefit of better archaeology, of people recreating arms and armor from the period to study how they were made, and the HEMA crowd providing insight into how they were used.

Still, he could have taught a class on the various polearms in use in the late middle ages.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
He was quite knowledgeable, for a layman. His knowledge probably came exclusively from secondary sources, which were limited at the time. Since then, we've had the benefit of better archaeology, of people recreating arms and armor from the period to study how they were made, and the HEMA crowd providing insight into how they were used.

Still, he could have taught a class on the various polearms in use in the late middle ages.
I basically agree. But I would qualify. Rather.

Gygax could teach a course on secondary sources about weapons and armors, but the reliability of these secondary sources is problematic.
 

Satyrn

Villager
:hmm:

Gygax was indeed a master of the polearm. For practice, he mercilessly murdered many a kitten each morning. :uhoh:

:.-(
 

DMZ2112

Chaotic Looseleaf
Greyhawk: Gygax's history, your future.

It's tough to sum up what makes Greyhawk great in a sound bite. It is prototypical and it is not for everyone. It's flat out a different animal to most other fantasy settings, which generally follow the Forgotten Realms model, because people and events are inherently more interesting than political borders and weather patterns. So the obvious but unhelpful answer to the question, "What makes Greyhawk exciting?" is, "nothing," at least, not in that context, and I think a lot of folks stop looking, at that point. Maybe they should. But for me, what makes Greyhawk exciting is the freedom to make it my own while still having a lot of the critical information players need to engage the setting available immediately.

The hardest thing about homebrew is getting everyone at the table on the same page regarding your insane houserule bulls**t, and with Greyhawk you're pretty much free to run the D&D campaign you want, while still being able to point your players at a surfeit of excellent character generation and setting information they can use to put down stakes and feel grounded. It's like running a game on Earth if Earth had responsive gods, magic, and dragons and no one knew what happened after about 1300 AD.

Greyhawk is regarded as "low magic," but that's really not what sets it apart. What sets it apart is that it is "low story."
 

Sword of Spirit

Adventurer
Implausible like northern Italy in the 9th to 15th centuries?

One characteristic of Greyhawk is it was created by someone with no knowledge of real world history or geopolitics.
It's not the city-states itself that I have a problem with. I should have clarified that I meant city-states surrounded by vast, unclaimed wilderness. I don't know if the Italian city-states claimed area bordering on each other (though I'd guess so), but they definitely didn't have vast wilderness.

The areas of Faerun I'm talking about are huge and the spaces in-between are very much unclaimed except by isolated villages, so I'm not sure if the analogy holds. On the other hand, Greyhawk's territory (and I understand Gygax was inspired by the American Old West) includes a lot of wilderness area too, it's just that it all lies within the border of some nation's claims (and some of it is at least occasionally patrolled), unlike in the Forgotten Realms, where the land is implausibly left for monsters to inhabit.
 

LordEntrails

Adventurer
To me, and I'm no expert at any setting, GH to me is about change. About turmoil and struggles between nations and organizations. Where FR is about the struggles of individual heroes and a constant return to the status quo (i.e. this is the way Ed envisioned it, so any changes always seem to be retconned and his favorite NPCs never really die.)
 
...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?
Everything you said is accurate. My introduction to D&D was with the Greyhawk "setting" – though it was used more as a backdrop for adventuring.

I was young at that time, but looking back I feel it kinda fit the "middle fantasy" mold, more similar to books like The Black Company or The Witcher than Forgotten Realms.

I actually started a discussion on what constitutes "middle fantasy" here on ENWorld back in 2014: http://www.enworld.org/forum/showthread.php?352870-What-is-quot-middle-fantasy-quot/page2

Greyhawk does depend on how the DM ran it, but my personal experience was that Greyhawk hit these points:

Magic prevalance (0) Magic is neither everyday nor is it exceedingly rare. So it's uncommon and there may be political restrictions to its use, popular superstitions against it, and other cultural elements that show it is part of the setting but the average person doesn't encounter it much and when they do it tends to be life-changing.

Magic power (0) The supernatural is neither vast nor minimal. Dragons, mighty spells, healing magic, and magic items would exist, but the more powerful stuff would be rare and capped off at a certain point, while the less powerful stuff would be perhaps uncommon. While the less powerful stuff wouldn't necessarily have a great story behind it, the more powerful stuff would have some important narrative.

Setting (0) Earth folklore and real-world cultural aspects are drawn upon without it actually being Earth or an earth facsimile. Something like "bog standard" magical medieval Europe-esque setting would fit here.

Scope (0) There are a mix of local/personal challenges and national/grand challenges, while things on the extreme ends (scraping silver just to get by & confronting gods in their realm) would not be the focus of action. Adventuring might be (mis)understood in a cultural context, but it would be a rare thing. So while there may be other adventurers out there in the world, either they don't cross paths with the protagonists or they play only a supporting role.
 

Yaarel

Adventurer
It's not the city-states itself that I have a problem with. I should have clarified that I meant city-states surrounded by vast, unclaimed wilderness. I don't know if the Italian city-states claimed area bordering on each other (though I'd guess so), but they definitely didn't have vast wilderness.

The areas of Faerun I'm talking about are huge and the spaces in-between are very much unclaimed except by isolated villages, so I'm not sure if the analogy holds. On the other hand, Greyhawk's territory (and I understand Gygax was inspired by the American Old West) includes a lot of wilderness area too, it's just that it all lies within the border of some nation's claims (and some of it is at least occasionally patrolled), unlike in the Forgotten Realms, where the land is implausibly left for monsters to inhabit.
Russia seems a bit like this to me. Vast wilderness, dotted here and there with towns. The roads look like a spiderweb linking these farflung towns.

Maybe parts of Canada too. Albeit Toronto is practically an ecumenopolis.
 

MNblockhead

A Title Much Cooler Than Anything on the Old Site
Greyhawk: Gygax's history, your future.

It's tough to sum up what makes Greyhawk great in a sound bite. It is prototypical and it is not for everyone. It's flat out a different animal to most other fantasy settings, which generally follow the Forgotten Realms model, because people and events are inherently more interesting than political borders and weather patterns. So the obvious but unhelpful answer to the question, "What makes Greyhawk exciting?" is, "nothing," at least, not in that context, and I think a lot of folks stop looking, at that point. Maybe they should. But for me, what makes Greyhawk exciting is the freedom to make it my own while still having a lot of the critical information players need to engage the setting available immediately.

<SNIP>

Greyhawk is regarded as "low magic," but that's really not what sets it apart. What sets it apart is that it is "low story."
This. Greyhawk is not a "good read." I don't know that I've ever sat down and read the old box set cover to cover. The recent "Wayfarers Guide to Eberron", I read cover to cover, in order, and enjoyed it. I may never run an Eberron campagin, but I enjoyed the book. SGAG is my least favorite 5e book, but I still enjoyed reading the fluff, even if I've never referenced it in or for a game. While I fully intend to run The Expanse, even if I didn't, I enjoyed reading the setting material.

Greyhawk has some interesting fluff bits, but it is an outline, a wire-frame, for you to flesh out.

The lonely fun in Eberon, Ravnica, Forgotten Realms, Planescape, etc. is reading throughout he fluff. The lonely fun of Greyhawk is world building.

Today we have how-to books and we-did-it-so-you-don't-have to books. Back in the 1e and OD&D era, these were merged into a bit of both. Here's how to build your world, we've given you the basic building blocks and did many of the hard bits, now go fill in the gaps.
 

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