5E Pitch Greyhawk to the new players

The Glen

Adventurer
I was reading another thread about the fact the new players know nothing of the older settings when playing D&D. So I thought this would be a good time to explain the older settings to them, and why they were good in their own way. For those that did love the older settings, now's the time to pitch your favorite D&D world. I was starting with Greyhawk. What made Greyhawk fun to play and what made it different from the other settings? Why would a starting player want to begin a campaign there?
 
I was reading another thread about the fact the new players know nothing of the older settings when playing D&D. So I thought this would be a good time to explain the older settings to them, and why they were good in their own way. For those that did love the older settings, now's the time to pitch your favorite D&D world. I was starting with Greyhawk. What made Greyhawk fun to play and what made it different from the other settings? Why would a starting player want to begin a campaign there?
If you like Game of Thrones, you will like Greyhawk. It's "middle fantasy" in the sense that it focuses on intrigue, politics, and war through a pseudo-feudal medieval lens. No high-level wizard is going to save the PCs; in fact, most of the high-level NPCs are bad guys or at best coldly neutral. Yet it doesn't go grimdark, retaining a sense of humor about itself. The greatest monster in Greyhawk is often human, appearing in numerous factions from the Scarlet Brotherhood to the servants of Iuz. When the supernatural does take center stage, it is often surrounded by superstition and mystique, something to be feared by civilized folks. Most of all, Greyhawk is meant to be your game; there are big gaps in its maps meant to be filled by the DM (or even PC strongholds), and even bigger gaps in its setting material. More than any other setting, Greyhawk is mean for you to "make it what you want it to be."
 

Shiroiken

Adventurer
Please note, that my statements assume the original Greyhawk Folio, the Greyhawk Boxed Set, and Greyhawk adventures printed through 1984. That is Gygaxian Greyhawk, and nothing beyond that counts for me (even if I steal good ideas from it occasionally).

Greyhawk is the original official setting, designed by the grandfather of D&D, Gary Gygax himself. While I'm quite certain that won't mean much to many players, it is important to note, since many tropes of the game came about from this campaign setting (such as most named spells, like "Tenser's Floating Disk"). It has a rich history, but much has been left undefined, allowing the DM freedom to customize the setting without violating cannon (which FR and Dragonlance often struggles with). The world isn't a massive struggle between good and evil, but rather a realm where alignment dictates politics rather than allies (two of the most LG nations dislike and distrust each other). It's very sword and sorcery, in the vein of Conan, Elric, and Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser, which is dark and gritty with evil magic and decadent societies. There are very few powerful NPCs and few orders of "good guys" there to save the day. It was the original Points of Light campaign, with danger at every turn and vast riches to be found.

Later Greyhawk works by TSR and WotC attempted to bring it more in line with the FR style, which watered down the setting and drained its magic away.
 

Eltab

Explorer
I've never played in Greyhawk, but when I found the Greyhawk Gazetteer, it made me want to play tourist in the world.
Where else can you find a forest of bone trees? Or a petrified forest where the trees are still standing up?
My FR Wood Elf character can barely comprehend such things, HAS to go see them himself - to see if the story is real.
 

Helldritch

Explorer
Greyhawk...
The first fantasy setting ever made for a RPG. It has lots of things going for itself.
1) No incredibly high level NPC to save the day. Elminster won't come up to save your asses. Do it yourself.
2) There is a lot of room to build new nations ruled by pc's.
3) There are really powerful enemies Iuz (a god!), The Scarlet Brotherhood, The mage of the Vale, Orcs of the Pomarj and the Great Kingdom to name but a few.
4) The map is vast, and you can improve quite a bit on it. The western part of Oerth is open to your imagination whereas in the Realm, everything is written down... (or almost)
5) Many religions and many order of knights where the knights are truly knights and being a knigth means following a code of honor.
6) It is the home of almost every opening adventures in previous editions.
7) Politics can have a real impact on the players and on the different countries. All these countries interact with each others and spy mission can be very cool.
8) Home of almost every legendary vilains of D&D. Vecna, Acererak, Iggwilv, Ashardalon and Gulthias to name, again, but a few.
9) Almost a limitless amount of fan made adventures, locations, organization and whatever. The fanbase of Greyhawk is huge and made of the oldest and most experienced DM around. Most of their fan made additions are not overpowered and are well thought (there are some exceptions but hey...)

As you can see there is a lot of things going for the Greyhawk setting. Magic is there, but it is not as present as in other settings. Religion is there too, but again, it can be downgraded or upgraded as the DM sees fit. Greyhawk is still the best setting ever made.
 
It's very sword and sorcery, in the vein of Conan, Elric, and Fafhrd & the Gray Mouser, which is dark and gritty with evil magic and decadent societies. There are very few powerful NPCs and few orders of "good guys" there to save the day. It was the original Points of Light campaign, with danger at every turn and vast riches to be found.

Later Greyhawk works by TSR and WotC attempted to bring it more in line with the FR style, which watered down the setting and drained its magic away.
One interesting thing about Greyhawk that I've never been able to pin down is that it has Sword & Sorcery literary influences, pseudo-feudal medieval trappings, and then hints of science fantasy scattered about.

The 5e DMG emphasizes the S&S roots of the setting...

DMG p.68 said:
On Oerth (the sword-and-sorcery world of the
Greyhawk setting), heroes such as Bigby and
Mordenkainen are driven by greed or ambition. The
hub of the region called the Flanaess is the Free City of
Greyhawk, a city of scoundrels and archmagi, rife with
adventure. An evil demigod, Iuz, rules a nightmarish
realm in the north, threatening all civilization.
And it mentions the science fantasy / "melting pot" aspects...

DMG p.41 said:
The renowned paladin Murlynd, from the world of
Oerth (as featured in Greyhawk novels and game
products), dresses in the traditional garb of Earth's
Old West and wears a pair of six-shooters strapped
to his waist. The Mace of St. Cuthbert, a holy weapon
belonging to Greyhawk's god of justice, found its way
to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1985.
Somewhere in the Barrier Peaks of Oerth, the wreckage
of a spacefaring vessel is said to lie, with bizarre alien
lifeforms and strange items of technology on board. And
the famous wizard Elminster of the Forgotten Realms
has been said to make occasional appearances in the
kitchen of Canadian writer Ed Greenwood- where he is
sometimes joined by wizards from the worlds of Oerth
and Krynn (homeworld of the Dragonlance saga).
 

The Glen

Adventurer
Aside from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks though, I don't remember any science fantasy in the setting
 

hastur_nz

Visitor
Note: Greyhawk was actually a bit of "shared world" ala Forgotten Realms, and lots of other people's ideas got woven into what was actually published. For example, Blackmoor was very loosely based on Dave Arneson's home campaign; the Lordship of the Isles was Len Lakofka's invention; there are other examples I'm sure. Lots was made up in order to publish something coherent. And even Gary liked to mix up a lot of genre-crap in his adventures; what was published, was usually loosely based on bits he'd run in his home games which I think tended to centre on or around the "Free City" i.e. Greyhawk itself. Stuff like a crashed space-ship in the mountains, a gun-toting 'wild west' NPC / quasi-god, etc, were simply a reflection of the fact that in those early days, the actual game was run very fast a loose, inspired by other game systems as well as early sci-fi not just fantasy books (e.g. John Carter from Mars et. al. - is that fantasy, or sci-fi?)
 

Ralif Redhammer

Adventurer
For my part, I think Greyhawk is about getting back to basics. It’s about adventuring in the gaming world that gave us Tenser, Mordenkainen, and where the rules of the game were codified. It’s about stripping away clutter and storylines and getting back to old-school D&D.
 

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