Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Classic Greyhawk: What Hasn't Been Reused?

As I watch with reserved interest at the upcoming releases for D&D's Elemental Evil story line I think back on the last few years of Greyhawk adaptations. 4E era Dragon and Dungeon publications weren't bad as we saw complete adaptions of Tamoachan, Tomb of Horrors, the Giants Series and several new modules not to mention a reprint of the Slave Lord series in its original AD&D format. As always I credit Chris Perkins a lot for this recent Greyhawk love. Wizard's organized play also got into the Greyhawk cookie jar and used among other storylines Beyond the Crystal Cave and the Ghost Tower of Inverness.

Before this run of course was Paizo's longer 3rd Edition tenure with the magazines where we saw expansions of Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure and a few epic APs and more original modules set in the Flanaess than I can name at the moment. Then of course there was the Expedition series modules. I wonder now, what's left of the World of Greyhawk's extensive library of modules (pre-dating 3e) that hasn't been reused, expanded upon or outright swiped.

EX1 Dungeonland and EX2 Land Beyond the Magic Mirror: These Lewis Carroll inspired modules aren't for everybody but comics, shows and movies with the Wonderland theme are in abundance so I can't see these as a bad option.

I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, I2 Tomb of the Lizard King, N1 Against the Cult of Reptile God, U2 Danger at Dunwater, U3 The Final Enemy: Perhaps some day there will be a renewed interest in jungle adventures and/or scaly folk as antagonists? Personally I've never ran any of these but I own them all. There has to be something worthy to use in all these adventures.

UK2 The Sentinel and UK3 The Gauntlet: These little regarded modules are set in a remote part of the Sea Princes and could make a good place to set expansions without much interference with canon.

WG6 Isle of the Ape: This may have been touched on in Paizo's Savage Tide AP but I know there hasn't been a major adaption or expansion done on this homage to King Kong. Again, jungle based modules aren't the in thing yet, however Greyhawk has gobs of them.

Crypt of Lyzandred the Mad, The Doomgrinder, the Star Cairns, WG9 Gargoyle, WG10 Child's Play, WG11 Puppets: Also known as the modules no one in their right mind would adapt. If anything they need gritty reboots with completely different plots.

Vecna Lives!, (Vecna Reborn) and Die Vecna Die: Not all technically Greyhawk modules but they all tie together. If I had to pick the next big Greyhawk thing to be exploited, Vecna would be it. He is an uber-NPC villain with a rich background, more than a few associated artifacts and multi-planar reach.

WG8: Fate of Istus: This module is in a class all its own and it's adaptation value is mostly in a city sourcebook. It could be interesting to do another Fate storyline however if we're talking something more Arabic in flavor this time.

WGA1 Falcon's Revenge, WGA2 Falconmaster, WGA3 Flames of the Falcon: This series based in Greyhawk City is undervalued and so isn't likely to ever be adapted. It still was a successful trilogy which is more than I can say for...

WGS1 Five Shall Be One, WGS2 Howl From the North: I loved the premise and set up of these modules but they were awfully written. It was so bad that evidently the third in the series was cut short and folded into the follow up Greyhawk Wars board game. People like Viking flavor, so this would be my personal choice for an adaptation or expansion module. The five swords could easily be scattered again and the quest renewed, but this time with a real goal in mind.


Charles Akins said...

If I remember correctly Mearls mentioned something about an Alice in Wonderland kind of thing coming in the next year or so. My guess is that they're going to be rehashing X1 and X2.

Mystic Scholar said...

Hopefully, we'll something of these in the next edition of the game. There's always hope!

tom said...

Or maybe they could hold off on publishing new editions for a while, and try to come up with some high quality content for the one(s) they have.

Hopefully something that incorporates the flavor of Gygax's modules and world instead of just recycling them, or coming up with yet another bogus cataclysm that lets them reboot and pretend it's still Greyhawk.

What's with the mad rush to release new editions anyway? Money? Probably not, because if they get buy-in for the current edition they could make just as much, if not more selling content. If not they could produce new content for the previous edition(s) with the largest followings. But new editions also alienate players who like what they already have and don't want to spend hundreds of dollars replacing it with a potentially inferior product.

AD&D lasted 12 years before TSR felt compelled to release a new edition. 2e lasted 11 years and was largely replaced because of the change of ownership.

Since they are largely interchangeable that's 23 years of AD&D+

3e lasted about 3 years before complaints brought about the release of 3.5. That one lasted 5 years, or more if you count the many players who just ignored 4th edition and opted to stick to 3.5 or switch to Pathfinder. Even though these are less compatible with each other than 1e & 2e were, let's call that either 5 or 8 or 15 years for D&D3+.

4th edition was largely considered a failure, if not a New-Coke or Windows Vista sized mistake. it lasted 4 years though most players completely ignored it.

Now we have 5th, and people arealready talking about "the next edition". Why?

Mike Bridges said...

Charles: I had no idea, but I'm glad I made the connection when I aw it.

tom: I always look forward to your epic replies. I don't think a new edition needs to be talked about necessarily, but my concern now is if they do get around to any kind of published hawk within the CURRENT edition, what is left to base it around that hasn't already been coopted by recent core D&D? Something to make a splash for the setting. The well is still plentiful but by the time they do there may be no choice except to write new material. Yet I'm worried that's like asking Marvel and DC to write new superheroes when they know what storylines are guaranteed to sell.
1e/2e was definitely the formative golden years which can never be repeated.

Darrel said...

I'd love new content for Greyhawk but not holding my breath. The weirdest thing for me is that there seems to be an active avoidance of the Greyhawk setting, by Wizards of the Coast.

Perhaps I'm seeing conspiracies where there aren't any.

I'd love to see Vecna revisited but would love something completely new even more.

Yora said...

I think Against the Cult of the Reptile God was remade for Eberron as Queen with Burning Eyes. It's not the same module, but build pretty much around the same premise.

BluSponge said...

I guess it's left for me to come to the defense of the Star Cairns, Crypt of Lyzandred, and the Doom Grinder. These were hooks introduced by Carl Sageant in From the Ashes and in that fashion, as hooks, they are absolutely fantastic, evocative, and worthy of attention. Unfortunately, the adventure modules that spotlighted them were...less than creative. That's to be laid at Sean Renyold's feet. But those three could easily be reimagined in any number of ways. But then, I guess that depends on your opinion of From the Ashes (I personally like it, but I understand why people don't).

grodog said...
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grodog said...

I'd like to see _new_ adventures continuing to be produced in Greyhawk, following the manner that they were during the Paizo era of Dungeon: tied to the roots of the setting and game, but not recycled content from Gygax, Kuntz, Schick, Hammack, or other names from the TSR era.

Erik Mona's RPGA "Abosolute Power" modlues---"River of Blood" (2000) and "As He Lay Dying" (2002)---are the new adventures I'd most like to see continued....


Stuart Kerrigan said...
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Stuart Kerrigan said...

The Absolute Power series was kinda continued by Creighton Broadhurst's excellent Return to the Ghost Tower of Inverness, and by Robert Kuntz's Return to Maure Castle.

Those Returns to's have a lot to answer for though - there was a lot of rehashing in the twilight 2E, post-3E launch era.

Mike Bridges said...

Yora: Interesting observation on the Reptile God. I wish I had followed Eberron more than I did. I liked it when it first came out.

BluSponge: Great to see ya on the defense of those mods! I absolutely loved From the Ashes. Played the hell out of that boxed set. My books literally fell apart. My personal problem with the 3 modules mentioned (of which I ran Doomgrinder and Star Cairns) was that they sound epic and I wanted to like them but like you said they weren't ass creative as Sargent intended. I think they have potential still, they just need reworked.

Allan and Stuart: Excellent comments! Always good hearing from your guys. I didn't know Creighton did Return to Ghost Tower. Huh!

Anonymous said...

Tom: It's always been my belief that 4e was created as a way for WotC to weasel their way out from under the OGL that 3e had locked them into. The overlords at Hasbro couldn't understand the value of the goodwill the OGL generated; they only saw that it allowed other publishers to share the D&D pie and thus it had to go. So WotC was forced to tack the D&D name onto some slapdash miniatures skirmish game one of the designers was cooking up in his spare time, and voila! This new game gets to parade around under the highly recognizable D&D brand name while being mechanically distinct enough to not fall under the OGL.

Never mind that 4e was a disaster of a game and a commercial flop; it was a resounding success in that it allowed Hasbro to defeat the OGL. Once that was accomplished they dropped it like a hot potato and just remade 3e into 5e, sans the shareware license.

Mike Bridges said...

Great retelling my friend, except that the OGL wasn't defeated. It lived on in Pathfinder and continues to haunt and bedevil the D&D brand to this day.

The fact that they haven't put out a new OGL yet allow some parties to sell 5E unabashed makes me scratch my head though.

Anonymous said...

Excellent point, but from Hasbro's perspective, the OGL is defeated. D&D is and will always be the big man on campus in the RPG industry, no matter how much its name is dragged through the mud by sloppy editions. Now that it's firmly back in Hasbro's steely grip, I doubt we'll ever see another license as permissive as the OGL. If anything, I'm guessing 5e's license will be as restrictive as 4e's GSL which will again leave third-party publishers wondering "why even bother?"

I hope to be proven wrong, however.

tom said...

if by "coopted by recent core D&D?", you mean stolen for use in some setting setting other than Greyhawk, I don't see that as a problem. I mostly see that as admission that the so-called "core" setting is deficient in interesting plot elements and that its writers are lazy and unimaginative. I see it as a reaffirmation that they chose poorly when selecting a "core" setting.

but beyond that, why should such co-opting make said material unavailable for use in its original context. comic books have parallel universes and alternate timelines where familiar characters and shorylines are different. why not offer a separately purchasable companion to every existing module and new module containing conversions to every edition of D&D, and maybe even every world setting that it is compatible with.

I'm not saying we should deprive new gamers of an opportunity to experience the classics, but i am saying that they should play the real version in its own world and time as it was meant to be, not some thinly disguised ripoff, or a "Return to" written by some hack.

to use your analogy, that would be like relocating Batman to LA and changing his costume a bit. (oh wait, that's Green Arrow. ;-) never mind)

but unless your sales are growing at a rate comparable to TSR in the early eighties, at some point you have to assume that the majority of gamers have been around for a while and want actually new and original content, not lame rehashes of old favorites.

Thomas said...

When we talk about Greyhawk, we're talking about something unique in the gaming world. It's the only campaign setting that is based off of several groups and their DMs who played the game. That's what WoTC or other gamers never seemed to understand. That's also why Greyhawk lacks a genuine metaplot, and why Gygax created "Pluffet Smedger" to create a unified voice. This quality creates problems for the superficial because it makes Greyhawk hard to pin down with a cursory glance. Go to any board or forum and you can read the dumbest, most ill-informed summaries imaginable.

Greyhawk was born from multiple groups playing, and multiple DM campaigns, not one guy sitting around and writing. What we're learning is Greyhawk's strength is its weakness. When we talk about Greyhawk we talk about the games we played, our campaigns, the modules, and our characters. When we talk about Forgotten Realms we talk about books, Drizzts, video games, and Elminster; in essence these stories belong to someone else. The strength of the latter is a community that shares an experience. The weakness is a community with little imagination of its own.

Greyhawk was built with modules. To understand Greyhawk you have to be a DM, you have to play it, and you have to make it your own experience. If you remember in the 1983 Boxed Edition (the Greyhawk Bible) they had adventure pitches like the "Quest of the Mist Golem" and the "Werewolves of Menowood." Anyone who was a Greyhawk DM will know exactly what I'm talking about because they made as least one of those hooks, or others, as their own. Greyhawk is gaming. Not books, not video games, not some writer's Mary Sue, Greyhawk is playing and running the game of Dungeons and Dragons.

The only way to rebuild Greyhawk is through modules. The only way to market Greyhawk is by turning every module into a part of the world history, the part that the players and DMs create. Stealing modules is stealing Greyhawk. It's stealing the lives and work of other DM's and players. It's easy to steal and call it your own. It's harder to write something so someone else can own it.

Will WotC steal more modules?