Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Commentary On Greyhawk As Adventurer, Conqueror, King Rpg System Campaign DYI Tool Box & Old School Campaign Setting

So I got an email from Terry who had some questions about my favorite products & least favorite products from classic era TSR. But also wanted to know about a classic era  campaign setting with plenty of room for expansion. The set up here is going to depend a bit on upon the Wiki entry on Greyhawk for its background available here.  Then I'll get into its applications for OSR campaign use.

Thanks to an email from Terry tonight I get the perfect excuse to talk about my favorite TSR campaign world, Greyhawk & its impact on my gaming. No other single product put out by TSR has come close to equaling the hours of joy that this world has given me. I came into Greyhawk through the original Folio edition way back in Nineteen Eighty but it wasn't until three years later that I came into the Gygaxian campaign world fully. But I'm getting ahead of myself here because for years I heard about & played around Greyhawk itself according to Wiki;"
As Gygax and Arneson worked to develop and publish the rules for Dungeons & Dragons through TSR, Gygax continued to design and present the dungeons and environs of Castle Greyhawk to his circle of friends and family, using them as playtesters for new rules and concepts. As the players began to explore more of the world outside of the castle and city, Gygax developed other regions and cities for them. With play sessions occurring seven or more times a week,[25] Gygax didn't have the time or inclination to create the map for a whole new world; he simply drew his world over a map of North America, adding new cities and regions as his world slowly grew through ongoing adventures.[26] The city and castle of Greyhawk were placed near the real-world position of Chicago, his birthplace; various other places were clustered around it. For instance, the rival city of Dyvers he placed in the area of real-world Milwaukee.[27][28]
Gygax also continued to develop the dungeons underneath the castle. By the time he was finished, the complex labyrinth encompassed thirteen levels filled with devious traps, secret passageways, hungry monsters, and glittering treasure. Although details of these original Greyhawk dungeons have never been published in detail, Gygax gave some glimpses of them in an article he wrote for the European fanzine Europa in 1975:
Before the rules for D&D were published, "Old Greyhawk Castle" was 13 levels deep. The first level was a simple maze of rooms and corridors, for none of the "participants" had ever played such a game before. The second level had two unusual items, a Nixie pool and a fountain of snakes. The third featured a torture chamber and small cells and prison rooms. The fourth was a level of crypts and undead. The fifth was centered around a strange font of black fire and gargoyles. The sixth was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs... in inconvenient spots, naturally backed up by appropriate numbers of Wereboars. The seventh was centered around a circular labyrinth and a street of masses of ogres. The eighth through tenth levels were caves and caverns featuring Trolls, giant insects and a transporter nexus with an evil Wizard (with a number of tough associates) guarding it. The eleventh level was the home of the most powerful wizard in the castle: He had Balrogs as servants. The remainder of the level was populated by Martian White Apes, except the sub-passage system underneath the corridors which was full of poisonous critters with no treasure. Level twelve was filled with Dragons.
The bottom level, number thirteen, contained an inescapable slide which took the players clear through 'to China', from whence they had to return via "Outdoor Adventure". It was quite possible to journey downward by an insidious series of slanting passages which began on the second level, but the likelihood of following such a route unknowingly didn't become too great until the seventh or eighth level...
Side levels included a barracks with Orcs, Hobgoblins, and Gnolls continually warring with each other, a museum, a huge arena, an underground lake, a Giant's home, and a garden of fungi.[29]
Anyone who made it to the bottom level alive met Zagyg, the insane architect of the dungeons. (Zagyg is a reverse homophone of Gygax, and it was Gygax's inside joke that the person who had designed the dungeon—himself—must be insane.)[30] Only three players ever made it to the bottom level and met Zagyg, all of them during solo adventures: Rob Kuntz (playing Robilar), Gygax's son Ernie (playing Tenser), and Rob's brother Terry (playing Terik).[31] Their reward was to be instantly transported to the far side of the world,[32] where they each faced a long solo trek back to the city of Greyhawk. Terik and Tenser managed to catch up to Robilar along the way, and the three journeyed back to Greyhawk together.[33]
By this time, over twenty players crowded Gygax's basement almost every night,[34] and the effort needed to plan their adventures took up much of Gygax's spare time. He had been very impressed with Rob Kuntz's imaginative play as a player, and appointed Rob to be co-Dungeon Master of Greyhawk.[35][36] This freed up Gygax to work on other projects, and also gave him an opportunity to participate as a player,[37] creating characters like Yrag and Mordenkainen."
Already you can see the workings of Greyhawk itself as a world through the various tourament level modules that had come out from & around it:
"From 1976–1979, Gygax also shared some glimpses of his home campaign with other gamers when he set several TSR Dungeons & Dragons adventures in the world of Greyhawk:[77]
In addition, Lawrence Schick set his 1979 TSR adventure S2 White Plume Mountain in Greyhawk."
All of these classic adventures can be easily placed with your version of Greyhawk but over the years dungeon masters & fans have moved their locations around.

Greyhawk continued to be expanded upon, fleshed out, given more flesh on its campaign bones with gods, weather, population details, social bits, & details on weather all within the pages of Dragon magazine. The Eighties were a classic period in TSR. In Eighty three the Greyhawk boxed set hit the shelves &  it changed everything in many ways. It was bigger at one hundred & twenty eight pages. " According to game designer Jim Bambra, "The second edition was much larger than the first and addressed itself to making the World of Greyhawk setting a more detailed and vibrant place."" It is beyond  vibrant after cracking open my box set which I haven't done for a couple of years.

The box set contains everything that you as a DM are going to need to introduce a group of brand new players to the world of Greyhawk. The entries are flexible and well laid out with enough room for the DM to make them their own. The world breaths & the content are very well organized with enough room to customize the campaign setting into your own version which what was expected back then.

There are some great online resources such as the Greyhawk Online,site & The Greyhawk Grognard,blog and even a poster sized map of the world of Greyhawk.

So what's all of this have to do with the Adventurer, Conqueror, King rpg system? Well since ACK's is partially based upon the Labyrinth Lord retroclone which is It's B/X (Moldvay/Cook/Marsh) D&D. The system  that can easily be expanded into an AD&D style clone with the  Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord. This makes it a snap to use with the classic Greyhawk boxed set
 Using this campaign setting with the Adventurer,Conqueror, King rpg system works very well. Because Greyhawk has many of the bits & pieces within it that marry up to the types of expansions that the classic box set talks about such as:

  • PC's setting up their own kingdoms & carving out a piece of the world as their own. 
  • Game of Thrones style intrigue as the players have to contend with some very dangerous NPC's along their path to power. 
  • Many of the classic TSR era adventures are actually stepping stones on that path. And it also means that their going to have to deal with many of the really nasty evils of Grayhawk including the Temple of Elemental evil. 
  • PC's are going to be major players on Grayhawk's stage. They're not going to be able to be sitting on the side lines because of the level expansion & ladder clime inherit in the ACK's system.  
  • Adventurer, Conqueror, King's Lairs & Encounters book's system are ideally suited for Greyhawk. They enable the various dragons & monster rulers to actually have an expanded role in the setting. 
  • Domains of War adds in a system that works straight across the board for actually running wargame warfare that works & can change the world on an expanded level.  This becomes important later as the Temple of Elemental Evil's rise to power has to be stopped.  
Part of the idea of Grayhawk is for the PC's to be the big noise in the world setting and for their achievements to leave a boot print on the pages of history of your campaign setting. This is the sort of thing that players talk about for years to come.

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