Thursday, August 24, 2017

Greyhawk Meets Game of Thrones

Greetings Greyhawk mavens. Today I'm going to muse on the medieval fantasy comparison of GRR Martin's popular "Game of Thrones" series and how it could enhance your Greyhawk campaign. You don't need to run an actual GoT RPG when you have Greyhawk after all. This setting was set up with a war backdrop with all the political intrigue one could want. This was because, as we know, Gygax was a wargamer first. It just so happened that dungeoncrawling then became all the rage back in D&D and thus Greyhawk's heyday. When they did try to push the Greyhawk Wars meta-plot it seemed to fall on deaf ears. Then came the era of storyteller games and adventure-paths that people enjoy today. Is it any wonder then why Game of Thrones is so popular now and not when it first came out?

Back in 2003, Dragon #307 dedicated an entire issue (back when it was still in print) to Martin's books and how to turn Westeros into a D&D setting. I remember barely reading that issue cause well, I'm a Greyhawk guy(wish I hadn't got rid of it). I don't think it captured the hearts and minds of many D&D players back then (this was 3.5e) but today it seems VERY relevant. Enough rambling, here is some ways to make your Greyhawk campaign more Game of Thrones-y:

Dragons. Let's start with the monster in the room. GoT went from popular to super popular thanks to HBO and the fact their CGI dragons look better than 90% of movie dragons (yes even Smaug). Now in D&D, dragons have historically been dungeon dwellers waiting to get slain. No one actually controls dragons either (that's a Dragonlance thing typically). A lot of D&D dragons are VERY intelligent is why. How to bring dragons out of the dark and become a major plot point of your Greyhawk campaign? Alliances.

For example, Rary has Volte (blue) in the Bright Lands. Brazzemal the Bright (red) treats with giants. Dragotha lives within Iuz's realm. There is many dragons in Greyhawk canon. If one ruler in the Flanaess has dragon/s on their side it immediately changes a war and has heroes on their toes because while awake, they could be anywhere.

Noble Houses. For me the main feature of Thrones is the squabbling warring noble houses like Lannister, Stark or Targaryen. Each house has their own style. Colors, mottos, hair colors! Pitting heroes in the middle of the Houses of Greyhawk is as easy as making a fighter the third son of a duke, or a cleric the bastard offspring of a baron. Instant faction association! Greyhawk is full of houses in canon. The Great Kingdom alone has many you can read about in Ivid the Undying, such as Darmen, Naelax and Garasteth. The Kingdoms of Nyrond and Furyondy's nobles are detailed in the Marklands sourcebook. Every minor nation in between has lineages, claims and rivalries that extend back a thousands years. Just peruse the 1983 Greyhawk Guide or the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer for a wealth of intrigue ideas.

Foreign Conflict. One of the big themes in Westeros is the rumored, but impending return of Daenerys Targaryen from across the sea to retake her empire. The foreign threat brings a new faction into the already warring atmosphere. In the World of Greyhawk this foreign aggressor could come in the form of the Baklunish West. Perhaps someone charismatic enough (with dragons or a relic of somekind) could unite the Paynims, Zeif, Ekbir, etc. to then march east in conquest for whatever perceived noble cause.

The Greyhawk Wars already had something close to this with the Scarlet Brotherhood's invasions. Here we had a secret society of monks and assassins who was already infiltrating all the courts in the land for decades, then suddenly, using foreign-born soldiers from the jungles went on a small run of successful conquests. The effort in canon kind of fizzled however. If the Brotherhood had fully used their potential (and used some unconventional weapons), then no country would've ignored them. Time for a second try!

Existential Threats. Speaking of invasions there is some threats that can't be reasoned withMuch like the Night King's undead army beyond the wall, Paizo's Age of Worms AP did just that with Kyuss' return and an undead plague right in the heart of the Flanaess. Zombie-plagues not your thing? Well other world wide threats can be imagined that could create opportunities for diplomacy among rivals and put a pause to ongoing conflicts. How about giants emerging out of ALL of the major mountain ranges at once? (Against the Giants on steroids) Or weird automaton armies marching out of Land of Black Ice? Whatever the threat, it can change the mood of the setting and turn the focus of play in a different direction than what PCs expect.

That's the four areas I'd emphasize, though anything in this genre can easily be ported into Greyhawk. One other note, if you want to do the humdrum of running a nation or several, look into the out of print Birthright Campaign. A D&D setting ahead of its time. What other aspects of Game of Thrones did I miss?


Sean Robert Meaney said...

Given Ket (Russia) is obviously the timber fuel supplier for Veluna (Ukraine) and Furyondy (European Union) you know things are going to get real when Ket sells sustainable volumes of fuel to the highest bidder.

Mike Bridges said...

Haha love the analogies. Who knew that's what spurred the Greyhawk Wars 2?

Anthony Emmel said...

In my Hommlet campaign last year, one of the players asked what feel I was going for in the game. I said, "Oh, something like Lord of the Thrones or Game of the Ring. Something like that, anyway."

Mike Bridges said...

Haha, nice. I'd still rather incorporate those fantasy themes into Greyhawk than run LotR or GoT setting itself. I just feel it'd be a let down on some level.

James Mishler said...

Ivid? Sure, Ivid is crazy... crazy like a fox!

Ivid actually unites the dis-united Great Kingdom. Then decides to finish the job by using his now massive army to bring together all the former Oeridian territories, all the way to Ket!

Iuz manages to summon hordes of Alien Undead From Another Dimension. He starts moving south, gobbling up territories even as Ivid starts moving west...

And then the King of Keoland gets his hands on the Dragon Orbs and summons an army of dragonnels led by clutches of dragons. Does he re-unite the Sheldomar against Iuz and Ivid and then hold the line, or does he dare move past the Lortmils to take them on directly?

And what of the plotting Scarlet Brotherhood, or the scheming Lords of Greyhawk? Do the Baklunish unite under a new Caliph? What rumblings out of the Thillronian Peninsula? What things stir in the Bright Desert?

Of course, with the material from the old Dragon Mags, where Gary talked about the wars within and without the Great Kingdom, you could simply do a Game of Thrones in the Great Kingdom alone...

Mike Bridges said...

James: That was great! Bravo!