how to describe "Greyhawk" to a new player?

rossik

Explorer
i must admit, im new to greyhawk as a DM, and i started DMing GH mostly because of garys work and robilars tales.

the problem is, i still dont know what to do to make GH what GH is .
I mean, i Dmed dragonlance for years, and its very easy (and obvious) what the word "feel", and the same goes to ravenloft and darksun, for instace.

But how do i explain what is the GH "feeling"?

demons? ancient dungeons? forgotten gods?
 

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A'koss

Explorer
rossik said:
But how do i explain what is the GH "feeling"?

demons? ancient dungeons? forgotten gods?
Greyhawk has a little of everything but it definitely more of a "points of light" setting than FR with a darker tone, lower populations, more "unknowns", with even the so-called "good" nations having shady political histories. PCs stand out more in Greyhawk and feel less like tiny cogs in a vast machine. Don't expect many (if any) powerful good NPCs or organizations to come to your rescue (or show you up), Greyhawk's most influential are predominantly neutral (or evil).

And speaking of evil... In my view, a lot of a settings value is in the villains you fight in it. And Greyhawk has the bar none, the most impressive array of powerful villains of any of WotC's settings.

Iggwilv, Graz'zt, Acererak, Tharizdun, St. Kargoth, Iuz, Vecna, Kas, Lord Robilar (sorta), Eclavdra, Lolth (though FR basically stole her), the Princes of Elemental Evil, Demogorgon, Fraz'Urb'Luu, Tuerny the Merciless, Kyuss, the Queen of Chaos & Miska the Wolf-Spider. Even if you've never played Greyhawk, these names (at least most of them) are well-known to the D&D community.


A good way to get a feel for it is through it's adventures. Demons have a heavy presence in GH, far more than devils do, as do giants, elementals, drow, lots of planar ties as well it's share of... just plain weird (Egg of Coot, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, City of the Gods). Tharizdun hangs over GH's head as the uber-threat to the setting.

Against the Giants
Descent into the Depths
Vault of the Drow
Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Tomb of Horrors & Return to the Tomb of Horrors
The Village of Homlett
The Temple of Elemental Evil
White Plume Mountain
Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun
Isle of Dread
The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
The Slave Lords series
The Ghost Tower of Inverness
Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure
Isle of the Ape
Vecna Lives!
Return of the Eight
Doomgrinder
Die Vecna Die!

Savage Tide & Age of Worms Adventure Paths in Dungeon Mag are set in Greyhawk. Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (castle) I think is the only non-Dungeon adventure set in Greyhawk for 3e.

That'll get you started anyway... :D
 

Sparafucile

First Post
rossik said:
i must admit, im new to greyhawk as a DM, and i started DMing GH mostly because of garys work and robilars tales.

the problem is, i still dont know what to do to make GH what GH is .
I mean, i Dmed dragonlance for years, and its very easy (and obvious) what the word "feel", and the same goes to ravenloft and darksun, for instace.

But how do i explain what is the GH "feeling"?

demons? ancient dungeons? forgotten gods?

Part of Greyhawk is that it's not so fleshed out. You go into a dungeon with an unpronouncable name, and the PC's have no idea what to expect. Logical placement of creatures and works are replaced by incomprehnsibility, and the towns are small and relatively powerless to help or do much of anything.

The effect is quite neat, because the PCs always feel small and insignificant in the right ways. If Forgotten Realms is designed to impose a sense of wonder through geography and political variety, essentially fleshing out every single thing in great detail, then Greyhawk poses a sense of wonder through history and sheer alien anthropology by presenting magic and works that cannot be explained.

In FR, you feel like you can one day be a powerful God, if you can accomplish x, y, and z. On Greyhawk, you will always a mortal.
 
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Dice4Hire

First Post
First, I should admit I like Greyhawk best of the settings.

Overall, most campaign settings dictate a kind of game. Not specific adventures, but almost have a laundry list of things you have to do. In Ebberon, it is see warforged, visit Sharn, ride a lightning rail and pilot an airship, for example. Fr has a similar list.

Now I know Greyhawk has a couple of modern-day things, but most of the coolest things happened in the distant past, so in the current day doing these things is an adventure in and of itself.

Most of the cool places of greyhawk are dungeons of one kind or another, which I like a lot. I'm not much of one for political games.
 

MerricB

Eternal Optimist
Supporter
Here you go:

A Short Introduction to the World of Greyhawk
Part 1; Part 2

Part 1 covers up to the original boxed set (1983 / 576 CY), Part 2 is post-Gary (2000 / 591 CY)

Cheers!
 

Ant

First Post
I think Erik Mona summed it up best in the Game Face article in Dragon #289 where he said his favourite setting is Greyhawk, because "grease and blood is better than smoke and mirrors."
 

rossik

Explorer
Thanks all for the great answers!
thanks merric for the historical lesson, it sure helped a lot!

so, lets say if i tried to resume in a few topics:

- no good powerfull good npcs to help. most are neutral or evil
-lots of evil threats, like demons and gods. gods of good dont show up often?
-things are never too clear, creating a "mystery" feeling
-lots of political work
-pcs arent suppose to be "gods on earth" power level.

is that ok?
 

billd91

Not your screen monkey (he/him)
rossik said:
Thanks all for the great answers!
thanks merric for the historical lesson, it sure helped a lot!

so, lets say if i tried to resume in a few topics:

- no good powerfull good npcs to help. most are neutral or evil
-lots of evil threats, like demons and gods. gods of good dont show up often?
-things are never too clear, creating a "mystery" feeling
-lots of political work
-pcs arent suppose to be "gods on earth" power level.

is that ok?

Oh, there are good NPCs to help. Guys like Bigby. But it's true that the most powerful movers and shakers (the Circle of Eight) are looking more for stability than for "good", per se. Fortunately, for Good, it's usually Evil who gets all violently expansionistic.

Gods of Good actually do show up, particularly St. Cuthbert. Well, mainly St. Cuthbert.

But you're right, things are often not too clear. There's a lot of Grey in the Hawk, so to speak.
 

Thanael

Explorer
rossik said:
Thanks all for the great answers!
thanks merric for the historical lesson, it sure helped a lot!

so, lets say if i tried to resume in a few topics:

- no good powerfull good npcs to help. most are neutral or evil
-lots of evil threats, like demons and gods. gods of good dont show up often?
-things are never too clear, creating a "mystery" feeling
-lots of political work
-pcs arent suppose to be "gods on earth" power level.

is that ok?

All the gods don't show up on Oerth. They made a non-interference-pact. The only exceptions are sometimes the hero and quasideities and of course Iuz, a demigod, who rules in the Bandit Kingdoms.



Here are some excerpts from another What makes Greyhawk Greyhawk thread on ENWorld:
Quasqueton said:
It's not so much that Greyhawk is "generic". D&D is Greyhawk, and Greyhawk is D&D. In AD&D1, about 75% of everything published for AD&D was part of Greyhawk. All the wizard names in the PHB were GH magic-users. All the named magic items and artifacts and relics in the DMG were GH items. The MM, FF, and MMII were the monsters of GH. Most of the adventure modules published for AD&D were placed in GH. In essence, the whole of the game was resource material for GH.
Nellisir said:
Greyhawk leans towards sword & sorcery and low fantasy (which is not the same as low magic). Historically, Greyhawk (the setting, not the "fans") is much friendlier towards incongruous elements like starships and Odin-worshippers.
ecliptic said:
I think the reason why people view Greyhawk as generic is because Greyhawk has influenced Dungeons & Dragons as a whole. But there is alot of depth in Greyhawk that isn't picked up by some.

And some more links to similar threads:
What makes Greyhawk Greyt? by Randy Richards
Nitescreed's controversial Grey in the Hawk essay
A recent Distilling Greyhawk to it's Essence thread on canonfire.

Also:
Introduction to Greyhawk
 
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