The WORLD OF GREYHAWK campaign
by Anne Brown
"Through clearing smoke and settling dust, refugees and tired soldiers make their way across a scarred landscape. The wars are finally over, and nations struggle to establish borders, alliances, and protective forces. Scarlet Brotherhood spies infiltrate every corner of the land. An undead king's grip tightens on unsuspecting nations. The Circle of Eight, the most famous clique of wizards across the continent, has scattered to the four winds, two of its members dead and one of them turned traitor.
What remain are danger, intrigue, and adventure-opportunities and treasures for those intrepid enough to seek them. Spies must be ferreted out, vital supply lines must be kept open, and victims of war crimes and injustice must be rescued. Perpetrators must be made to answer for their evil deeds."
Good intro! This sums up the state of the Flanaess post-Greyhawk Wars and leading into From the Ashes era. Evil is ascendant and the wars while over, are still simmering. Back then we are still a way off from the Return of the Eight, and the reversals of war leading into the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Let's continue...
"The WORLD OF GREYHAWK campaign setting, the oldest world devised or the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game, is a land of chivalry, valiant knights, heinous villains, and wrongs waiting to be righted. It has stood the test of time as a gaming ground, boasting such adventures as Temple of Elemental Evil, Tomb of Horrors, and Vecna Lives! It provided a starting point for thousands of AD&D game players, young and old.
The GREYHAWK setting is also home to some of the most famous names in the ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game-Mordenkainen, Bigby, Tenser, Rary, Vecna, Iuz, Zagyg, and more. These heroes and villains have no doubt both saved and threatened the necks of all player characters over the years. Their influence is unmistakable and their absence would be painful."
Greyhawk does benefit from being the innovator. Really the only thing you need to know is classic adventures and famous D&D personages is what separates Greyhawk from all the others. The examples Anne lists are perfect, even Vecna Lives! which is not highly regarded for its quality is now very relevant in 5E. Like she says, the absence of these names associated with their famous spells and magic items is a grave mistake. Greyhawk's influence reverberates through all D&D history. Moving on...
"The famed City of Greyhawk, described in its own boxed set, is a gaming jewel in its own right. Filled with interesting characters from Mayor Nerof Gasgal (a former member of the thieves' guild) right down to gamblers and street urchins, this bustling metropolis is filled with adventure and intrigue. It boasts a marketplace, gambling house, opera house, museum, wizards' academy, and library. It is a city inhabited by thieves, merchants, wizards of all levels, sewer zombies, and plenty of friendly, ordinary folk.
Like any civilized continent, Greyhawk is not without its problems. Raiding barbarians, evil necromancers, and the occasional dragon have all beleaguered innocents and adventurers alike. It would be a boring land without interesting villains."
Anne leads into the City of Greyhawk which is literally the center of this great setting. Since the boxed set she mentioned, the city has had timeline updates and additions through the editions. Whatever source you use for the Gem of the Flanaess, the description here holds true. There is more...
"The Winds of War
In recent years, political frictions built into the campaign world came to a boil. Deceit, treachery, double-dealing, and expansionism desired by greedy leaders all took their toll. Shaky alliances fell and armies mounted by forces of evil besieged coveted lands. Horrible tales of war machines, destructive wizardry, and massive humanoid armies on the march are now told in every inn, tavern, and outpost.
For two long years, the nations of the Flanaess schemed, murdered, and warred against each other until nearly all sides lay bloodied and beaten: war had exhausted the land and the people. Furyondy, and Iuz ground to a stalemate; Nyrond's vast coffers drained dry and its overtaxed peasants grew rebellious; the Great Kingdom shattered into a swarm of petty landholdings vying for power; Keoland ought invasion on all sides; countless men, dwarves, elves, and orcs marched off to war, never to return; farms stood empty; fields lay fallow... the Flanaess could war no longer.
The leaders of the fatigued nations finally agreed to a truce-no small undertaking. Each nation sent ambassadors to the Free City of Greyhawk. Six months of strained negotiations commenced, and in the end, came the Day of the Great Signing. Finally, the nations of the Flanaess rested in an uneasy peace. The documents were signed. But across the countryside, the world was far from peaceful."
So again, Anne lets us know war is a major backdrop of the setting. This is another huge selling point for the setting. Only Birthright really goes more into medieval fantasy warfare than Greyhawk does. From its war gaming roots, Gary Gygax's Greyhawk was meant to have this kind of continent-wide conflict. She goes on to name-drop some of the most important kingdoms on the map and finishes with the event that leads to the unfortunate Rary the Traitor. What comes next from Anne Brown?
"After the War
The GREYHAWK campaign setting now offers more gaming opportunities than ever before. In December 1991. the original boxed set was amended by the Greyhawk Wars boxed set, describing the status of the war and providing a complete wargame, allowing fans of the setting to play out the events of the war.
In October 1992, the game line was again amended by a boxed set, entitled From the Ashes. This set provides a complete update describing the aftermath of the war, and includes new maps, encounters, and gaming hooks. Countless rumors and whispered tales are included as fuel for the imagination of the DUNGEON MASTER.
From the Ashes also includes new non-player characters to provide player characters with tour guides and enemies. These folks run the range from law enforcing rangers and patrols to mischievous wizards and fiendish undead creatures. Of course, plenty of friendly natives, grumpy dwarves, and sly elves fill in the gaps.
The most powerful creatures in the world of GREYHAWK, the gods themselves, are also detailed in this boxed set. Major deities are outlined to provide both players and the DM with just enough to understand their workings but still keep them guessing."
Anne brings it back to the stuff being sold in the catalog. I would not recommend Greyhawk Wars for a campaign simulation, but it makes for a fun boardgame. Like or not, From the Ashes does indeed build on previous published Greyhawk. The 90's was of course the golden age of prolific author Carl Sargent and sourcebooks like Iuz the Evil, Marklands and the unpublished Ivid the Undying; all would go on to add an abundance of new lore undreamt of during the Gygax era. Let's finish this off...
"The lands of Greyhawk will be recovering from the wars for decades. Certain areas are wild as ever, while some regions, once safe, have fallen under evil influence. Skirting the Scarlet Brotherhood spies, avoiding the eye of Iuz, and eluding Ivid and his undead will make for years of memorable gaming!"
Well said Anne Brown! Built off this momentum in 1993, Greyhawk would go on to have even more 2E updates and adventures, then it was made the core world of 3.5E D&D. This was the peak of the Greyhawk setting; featured by Paizo Publishing in dozens of adventures for Dungeon magazine and was the setting for the unmatched Living Greyhawk campaign where players from all over the world created hundreds more modules for several years. Though the star has faded since then, Greyhawk lore continues to influence modern D&D for all the reasons Anne listed above. If you are just now learning about the World of Greyhawk, the 90's is actually a great place to start because it has all the wondrous simplicity of 80's Greyhawk with a respectable amount of gritty new adventure seeds and you won't get overwhelmed by all the published lore that comes out in the 2000's. Thanks again, Anne for writing this article.