What didn't people like about Greyhawk From the Ashes?


haakon1 said:
When you look at FTA follow-up products like "Puppets", you gotta wonder what TSR was thinking.

Actually, Puppets predated FtA. As did Child's Play (ugh!) and Gargoyles (ugh!).

Everything Post-FtA for GH was pretty top notch, IMHO. It wasn't a smooth transition, and I can see why a lot of people were mad (the fact that Zeb Cook suggested blowing up the world gets him an eternal black mark from me), but Sargent's writing and vision were both Grade A. Now as to whether they were "Greyhawk," well, we've been debating that for years!


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IanB said:
Speaking for myself, I think Carl Sargent is probably the most talented designer to work on D&D during the TSR years, and I find his work to be consistently high-quality and useful.
If anything, his Greyhawk is more consistent and logical than the original. .

You know, I agree with all of that, yet I still don't like it! I bought Iuz the Evil, and it seems very competently done, yet I never had much desire to play there. Whereas something inconsistent & illogical like Wilderlands or Known World/Mystara to me just begs to be played in.


First Post
Mean DM said:
Sorry if this is thread-jacking, but I don't know if my question warrants its own thread. This conversation caught my interest in that I have FtA in a box somewhere in storage and have been itching to run it as a campaign. My question is this, out side of the current Gazetteer, what products do folks recommend picking up to have the essential core material? Or is the Gazetteer sufficient? I have been eying the older supplements, but don't know if the are worth it (not monetarily wise, since I can get the pdfs cheap). I also ask this because I was thinking of running at an earlier time (prior, during or just after the Greyhawk Wars).


If you want to run during the wars, find "The Complete History of the Greyhawk Wars" online. Cherry pick the events from the war that you want to build adventures around.

Separate from FtA itself, I'd personally use, and so recommend The Marklands, Iuz the Evil, "Risen From the Ashes" Dragon Magazine article from issue 191, and Ivid the Undying, in that order.

City of Skulls and Return of the Eight if you like adventures.

Greyhawk: City of adventure softcover/pdf if you want a more detailed city setting and/or the City of Greyhawk boxed set if you want the larger maps for the region of Greyhawk.

You can play out years of campaigns, and campaigns of many different tones/goals with these supplements.


First Post
Jester Canuck said:
....Reading through this thread, as a relative newcomer to Greyhawk and the argument, much of the dislike seems to boil down to change=bad.

Most of the posters here who hate GW and FtA seem to be old school players (often retired from D&D:\ ).

Hmm ... well I still must disagree with this assessment. I would modify it to many old school players agreeing that a specific change was poorly done. change=bad is a loaded way to present it.

Jester Canuck said:
The two updates seem to be receiving the condensed, concentrated vitriol of the setting's change, the change of what people want in a published world, a change in the game and industry, etc. There's probably some residual feelings of the edition changes (OD&D to 1st AD&D to 2nd AD&D) mixed in there as well, further tainting memories and opinions.

Now while I must admit that I did not like the change over to 2e I did not read the "From the Ashes" supplement until WAY later on ... only a few years ago, in fact. But the assumption that those who did not like the edition changes have a "tainted memory and opinion" with regarding to whether or not they like the From the Ashes supplement is also unfair and rather sweeping, IMO. (Although I think I can understand why you might think that.)

Jester Canuck said:
Meanwhile, most of the people who have admitting to like one or both of the accessories, were newcomers to the setting.
(My emphasis on the word most ... not in original post.)

Not quite. Read through the thread. There are people in here who were "old schoolers" who liked the supplement and the changes.

An earlier post by I'm Cleo seems a little fairer percentage wise in the assessment of the thread thus far. Here it is again:

I'm Cleo said:
It seems like there are several arguments put forth, some of which are matters of taste, and others which can stoke antagonism. I'll try to set them out:

1. I had a campaign that was "ruined". This certainly applies in a "well, if they were going to spend money producing something, I'd really rather be able to use it" sense, but I still don't see how anyone's bound to use any particular supplement in their games at home. If you're regularly bringing in new players and replacing old ones, and those new players have expectations about how Greyhawk is "supposed to be", I could see how this plays a larger role.

2. I didn't like the feel. Fair enough.

3. I don't like metaplots. Fair enough (and this relates to #1), though I think the arguments from the perspective of a gaming company, as presented by several posters here, are pretty compelling explanations for why they did it, if not justifications.

4. It was low quality. Fair enough.

5. It made it detailed, like the (dreaded) Forgotten Realms. Really? There's still a lot of detail left out of the FtA-era Greyhawk. I don't think DMs are restricted in their setting development generally, and certainly not specifically with FtA-era Greyhawk. This also carries with it the "you're a lazy DM" stigma (expressly stated, sometimes), which annoys people who liked FtA.

6. It's not Greyhawk. I find this one problematic. There's "I don't like it," and there's "it's not Greyhawk". In the latter case, you have to define "Greyhawk" in such a way that your statement isn't equivalent to "I don't like it." Nitescreed attempted to do so, and I think he succeeds in some areas, but creates a tradition out of thin air in others. I.e., your "tradition" has to be differentiated from your home campaign (see #1) or your personal conception of the game world. But to people who play in Greyhawks that don't resemble yours, "It's not Greyhawk" comes across as an awfully arrogant thing to say.

This being quoted, I fall into the category of numbers two and three - I did not like the change in the feel and I did not like the introduction of a metaplot.

There is another thing though, related to number three. I dislike it immensely when metaplot elements come from deities, demigods and the like. I prefer the gods to be as peripheral as possible, only coming into the player's realm of experience on a very rare occasion. This is also one of the qualities I dislike that is present percentage wise to a much greater degree in the Forgotten Realms settings ... at least in my experience of them. :)


grodog said:
IIRC, Greyhawk Wars was David Cook; Ward was the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover.

Y'know, I wrote Zeb Cook first, then second-guessed myself. Ce la vie.

Anyways, I liked FtA. I found, and still find, Carl Sargent's writing more interesting and more "hook-filled" than, well, most campaign settings I read.

WotC's intensive gamer survey back in 2000-ish found (and I suspect TSR already knew, and I'm paraphrasing), that most D&D gamers don't actually -use- the stuff they buy. Most readers of Dungeon, for instance, buy it to -read-, not to run. A stripped-down, minimalist, "build-your-own-campaign" setting doesn't have much appeal to those people, and it doesn't hold much promise of future income. Adventures don't sell much now, and by the time FtA came out, they didn't sell much then (they may have sold well in the very early days). Publishing more detailed settings simply gets more bucks in the long run. (That said, I'm confused about WotC's move away from regional sourcebooks to regional "adventure books" for FR. I liked reading the sourcebooks; I won't bother with adventure books.)

I fall into that category. I enjoyed many aspects of FtA, but I didn't have to handle any issues with my home campaign because of it.

The Dragon articles by Carl Sargent were excerpts from Ivid the Undying, which was never published in print.


grodog said:
Yes, the Greyhawk folder AOL discussions are archived on Canonfire! @ http://www.canonfire.com/cfhtml/modules.php?name=Downloads&d_op=viewdownload&cid=3

That's the best of the first 6 folders. It looks like they -still- haven't put up the next 6 BoGs.

For those who weren't there...the original AOL folders closed after (500?) posts and were "auto-archived" in AOL's download library (they're no longer there; don't bother looking). There were 30 folder logs in all, then AOL switched to an unlimited post message board which was not auto-archived. There were a few desultory attempts to manually log the posts after that, but I don't think any suceeded or survived.

Of the original 30 folders, #27(26?) and #30 are corrupted. To the best of my knowledge, no intact log of these folders exists. I have all but the earliest logs (#9 or so, I think). I'm not sure who, if anyone, also have copies. Grodog might, or Blusponge - also Erik Mona & PSmedger. I haven't come across them archived anywhere online (I haven't looked recently either, though).

The Best of Greyhawk files are excerpts from the folders, with posts compiled into articles. ("Someone who's name escapes me") did 1-5; I did 6-12 or so before stopping.



First Post
XO said:
making a detailed setting out of an officially and deliberately sketchy one, well, creates unnecessary discrepancies.

Was it deliberately left vague, or was that simply driven by the typical supplement length at the time? These days we have 200+ page setting books like FR and Eberron, and similar lengths from other publishers. Back then, books were like 64 pages or 96 pages. I'm open to the idea that details were not filled in by design, but personally I'd guess that it was a combination of the newness of setting material as an idea, and the amount of space they had to work with. Are there any quotes from Gary about the intent behind the level of detail?


First Post
00Machado said:
Good point. I think maybe it's related more to how long they've been using the setting, more so than expectations from different age groups. A 40 year old reading FtA might have the same expectations more or less than a 25 year old, if it's their first introduction to the setting. A 40 year old who has been running campaigns in the setting for 10 years will likely have different expectations than that other 40 year old who is new to it.
When I was referring to the generation gap based on age I was really talking about how new gamers view game settings today based on how they did back in '81.

High school and college kids getting into the gaming today have different expectations from a setting then I did back in '78. Greyhawk could afford to be sparse back then because the whole RPG industry was sparse. We didn't know any better when we saw a country getting a couple of paragraphs of description. We were playing tournament modules because we didn't know there was any other kind. As much as we claimed we were only playing Greyhawk we would cram every module we could get our hands on into Greyhawk's continuity just because gaming information was so sparse.

People getting into gaming today have 250 cable channels. They have internet access which allows them to experience cultures from around the world. They have computer games, and online gaming, and playstations, and Xboxes, and hundreds of other things which gives them a multitude of detail at their finger tips. For the new generation of gamers a two or three paragraph country description just is not enough to spark the imagination. Why spend a week making up details for the Wild Coast when you can go and play HALO and have all the details thrown at you?

What makes the Forgotten Realms popular is that is satisfies the hunger for details. It does not matter that most people playing in the Realms will never use 90% of that information. It satisfies the need and keeps gamers from having to do it themselves. Greyhawk has been tested many times by the powers-that-be over the years to see if it can be profitable but there aren't enough old-time Greyhawkers around to make it profitable. If Greyhawk is going to get regularly published it needs to appeal to the new generation of gamers; and unfortunately that generation's wants and needs are in direction contention to the wants and needs of the older generation who love it the most.

T. Foster

First Post
00Machado said:
Was it deliberately left vague, or was that simply driven by the typical supplement length at the time? These days we have 200+ page setting books like FR and Eberron, and similar lengths from other publishers. Back then, books were like 64 pages or 96 pages. I'm open to the idea that details were not filled in by design, but personally I'd guess that it was a combination of the newness of setting material as an idea, and the amount of space they had to work with. Are there any quotes from Gary about the intent behind the level of detail?
See this from the 1E DMG:
1E DMG said:
I will mention parenthetically that my own WORLD OF GREYHAWK, (published by TSR), was specifically designed to allow for insertion of such beginning mileux, variety being great and history and organization left purposely sketchy to make interfacing a simple matter.
Note also that the original (1980, folio) version of The World of Greyhawk was 32 pages (plus 2 poster-sized maps). The 1983 version added considerable extra material (including the info about racial types, plants/trees of the Flanaess, encounter tables, weather tables, adventure seeds, and all of the deities/religion stuff) and I've known at least a few people over the years (myself occasionally among them) who think even that was going too far, and who prefer the simplicity of the original 1980 version.


00Machado said:
Are there any quotes from Gary about the intent behind the level of detail?
I don't have quotes to hand, but Gary has often talked about how he dislikes the idea of a detailed, limiting 'canon' and timelines. He isn't into detailed world-building for its own sake. On the other hand, there were plans to publish supplements on areas such as the Wild Coast.

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