Over at ENWorld, Morrus has posted some quotes from a panel that WotC's Chris Perkins took part in and it has once again got me and a lot of people buzzing on Greyhawk. Here's my thought and reactions to selected parts of this panel, also you can listen to the rest of the panel for yourself HERE.
"Gone are the days, in 3rd and 4th Edition, when we were bound by the model of having to release a book a month or two books a month, or three books a month. We have no commitment or desire to do that going forward.
And part of that is just driven by business realities, part of it is driven by our knowledge of certain facts that we've obtained through surveys, through talking to people at shows, that there is kind of a certain amount of material that people can actually absorb before the stuff that we're releasing no longer has any value and is no longer serving anybody. A lot of 3rd Edition products, I'm sure, and 4th Edition products, I'm sure, that maybe you've bought or your players have bought are sitting on shelves having never been used, or used precious little. We don't sell products so that 5% of our audience can use 5% of it. We're now trying to sell products that 100% of our audience might use, and they'll use all of it."
I appreciate this honesty because we all know splat books get ridiculous and it's even more ridiculous trying to keep up with buying them. This is a big reason I only play Pathfinder core rules. I got off the book a month club early. It would be different to me if that was a Greyhawk source book every month but a dozen bestiaries or an ultimate-ultimate character building guide is too much. I'm glad Wizards is sticking to just story related material, though that does hedge out extra setting support which us diehards clamor for.
"...one of the things we are going to be doing in the future is looking out at some of our other worlds. That doesn't mean we won't come back to the Realms, or have adventures that visit multiple different locations, start in one place and end in another... one of the goals with our stories is to go beyond Forgotten Realms, safe to say.
The other thing that we're driving to with our stories is to, whenever possible, draw upon the past, key elements from the history of the game that have not seen a lot of attention lately."
This is a tricky proposition. What elements haven't got any attention? What old D&D themes have not been done already by WotC (or Paizo) in recent memory? I've got a few ideas HERE. Place your bets!
"The story that follows Rage of Demons is not going to be anywhere near the Underdark, and it will have its own feel, its own flavour, its own atmosphere, its own thing. The story that follows that is going to be very different. It allows us to do things like ... Princes of the Apocalypse and the Elemental Evil story was very dungeon driven; it was a dungeon-based story... in the future we want to maybe do intrigue. What story would we have to tell in D&D that is fundamentally an intrigue story. Would it be like city based? Would it be planar based, where you're basically on some sort of planar hunt for something? And then maybe the story after that is ... [audience member suggests "horror"] ... horror, or something more light-hearted and flaky, or a little off-track, or like Eberron, a little more steampunkish, or Victorian pulpy... making sure every story has a different feel, flavour, making sure we get to visit some of our other worlds.."
This line of thought implies good chances for settings like Ravenloft or Planescape to be explored, which would feel quite different than their Realms stories. For Greyhawk to stand out, avoiding diungeons or underdark will be difficult but not impossible.
"So, yeah, vampire, classic monster, yeah, we'll do a story with vampires... [more classic monster suggestions].. yeah, we'll do a story with giants."
So Ravenloft naturally, and Against the Giants will be touched upon sooner or later. Check. Whether Greyhawk's giants are more compelling a story than those already seeded in the Realms stories we shall see. As for horror, I'd still love to see Vecna used. He is arguably Greyhawk's greatest villain and is also a planar threat to boot.
"A great bulk of those who play D&D run homebrew settings. But of those home-brew campaigns, over half of those homebrewers do pillage from other settings ... 15% or 50% of the world they've created has hawked stuff from other worlds. They're comfortable pillaging our products for ideas. That homebrew number, I can't remember the exact percentage, but I think it's like 55% homebrew. And then it's like 35% Forgotten Realms, and then everything else ... Very few people right now, turns out, running Dark Sun campaigns. A sliver of a sliver. Very few people running Hollow World campaigns. Very few people are running Mystara campaigns. It pretty much goes Homebrew, Forgotten Realms, I think Greyhawk's at 5% ands then everybody else is at 2% or 1%."
Meh. A few years ago I'd rail against this figure, but realistically ever since 4E they've been burying interest in Greyhawk beyond nostalgic reasons. Most Living Greyhawk players probably migrated to Pathfinder's Golarion long ago, then two editions of Nentir Vale and Realms have led to people either doing their own homebrew or going with what's published. So Greyhawk at 5%? I'll take that! With no RPG support, video games, or novels for years? What other brand can still keep that big a slice of the pie?
"But we are looking at bringing in consultants beyond the range, beyond the pale... people that obviously love D&D may not actually have ever worked on a D&D product. Or maybe they have! Who knows? If I could resurrect Gary Gygax I would bring him in as a consultant, certainly. But we have to stick to the living."
This is something I've been harping on for a long time and now that WotC wholeheartedly embraces their "consulting" model it seems Greyhawk does stand a chance if the right people are there at the right time. Sure Gygax is gone, but the best people on the inside right now are Perkins and Mike Mearls themselves! Outside of those two, I know more than a few people still in the industry or without it who would jump on a Greyhawk consulting gig if given the chance.
"So the question is "What is the next Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide?" Who knows? I don't know. ... But let's say we did a Greyhawk adventure, Greyhawk has been out of circulation now for how many years? Although you can still ... there's nothing stopping you from running a Greyhawk campaign because everything out there is still there and its still timely. And it remains, as far as I'm concerned it's an open question whether we would even change the timeline. Greyhawk's current timeline is perfectly cromulent. So is its original timeline. So the question then becomes "Is it a better user experience to put all the information you need to know about Greyhawk in the adventure product because it's really for the DN's information, or is it better, and it's going to be better received, if that information is parcelled, divorced from the adventure as a separate thing that you have to buy? That you have to spend money on now."
Greyhawk or more appropriately the City of Greyhawk region would fit the SCAG template perfectly. Taking all Greyhawk's existing guides, timelines and story elements you can draw a line through them all that will make a single coherent sourcebook full of useful material for DMs and players alike.
"What makes Greyhawk, Greyhawk? Is it Gary? What else about Greyhawk makes Greyhawk, Greyhawk? Is it low magic? Because you have Mordenkainen - he is not low magic. So it's that magic is more exclusive in Greyhawk? Unless you goto the Valley of the Magi, where it's not. It's got barbarians, a whole lot ... look at the Greyhawk map, there's a whole lot of barbarian territory up there. We don't know a whole lot about them except that they're tigers and... we've got Scarlet Brotherhood which are aryan monastic wanna control the world type organisation, somebody at work, I can't remember it was Mike Mearls or somebody else, described Greyhawk as almost Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser-esque, Fritz Leiber, Lankhmar-esque. That would certainly make sense based on things I heard about what Greyhawk was like when Gary was running it, sort of maybe he felt that way."
"If we were to do a Greyhawk story, one of the things I'd be sorely tempted to do is focus on Iuz. I'm not going to give you a full campaign setting. I'm going to tell you a story about Iuz and all of the **** that he's doing right now and all of the repercussions that are happening because of that... Iuz is going to be the glue that holds this story together."
Totally agree. It's a lot of things to different people. There is no way you can pigeon-hole it. Thus, given the limited time WotC devotes to promoting a story or setting I will never expect an adventure set in the Sea Princes or Ull for instance, but do I expect Greyhawk City or Iuz? Hell yes it's almost unavoidable.