The Grognard Speaks about Greyhawk

Many, many moons ago when fire was cutting edge technology and large lizards roamed the Earth I discovered Dungeons & Dragons. This was back in 1974 when I was nine years old. Of course, we had no idea what we were doing – the campaign setting (such as it was) was limited to the “town” and the “dungeon”.

D&d_Box1stOriginal D&D, the very first D&D set published in 1974. I still have my Original White Box sets (very rare and I am told I can sell it for $500 or more on eBay but I keep it for nostalgic reasons). Wizards of the Coast has published a new version that retails for a still-pricey $149.99 (at in an illustrated wooden storage case, a homage to the Original D&D’s brown wood-grain cardboard box. I persuaded my saintly mother (obm) to buy it for me. It became an instant hit for me and my brothers (and our more nerdy friends).

D&d_originalIn 1977, TSR released the box set with the dragon on the cover, which was a real refinement of the OD&D white books. The box included 48-page stand-alone rulebook featuring artwork by David C. Sutherland III, a set of polyhedral dice, monster and treasure lists, dungeon geomorphs (which I still use, having scanned them into my computer as PNG files) and a set of (cheesy, by today’s standards) polyhedral dice and a crayon to mark them with.

The rulebook covered characters of levels one through three, rules for adventuring in dungeons, and the concepts of the game in terms that made it accessible to new players. Although the Basic Set was not fully compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, players were expected to continue play beyond third level by moving to AD&D. I picked up a copy and we happily continued in our “town” and “dungeon” setting.

PlayersHandbook8CoverLater in 1977, TSR released what would become the great grand-daddy of all FRPGS and still my favorite – Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. With AD&D role-playing entered it’s golden age and for me, some of the happiest memories of my childhood. For those who never saw AD&D in the “flesh” so to speak;  it was an updated version of D&D that reorganized the rules of the game across three hardcover rulebooks, compiled by Gary Gygax, between 1977 and 1979. The Monster Manual (1977), the Player’s Handbook (1978), and the Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979). Major additions included classes from supplements like assassin, druid, monk, paladin, and thief, while bard, illusionist and ranger that had only appeared in magazine articles were also added.

Later supplements for AD&D included Deities & Demigods (1980), Fiend Folio (another book of monsters produced semi-autonomously in the UK – 1981), Monster Manual II (1983), Oriental Adventures and Unearthed Arcana (1985), the latter of which mostly compiled material previously published in Dragon magazine and others.

All of a sudden, there was an above-ground portion of the game. The world had become bigger than the “Town” and the “Dungeon”. So where would we set our game? The maps of Middle Earth quickly became our first choice… of course, the problem was the Good Professor had pretty much told us the entire story of Middle Earth – and the Silmarillion filled in what gaps the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings left open. We muddled through using maps cribbed from various paperback fantasy novels… but in 1980, E. Gary Gygax came through with  Greyhawk, also known as the World of Greyhawk

Although, strictly speaking it was not the first campaign world developed for Dungeons & Dragons (Dave Arneson’s Blackmoor campaign predates it by a few months) the world of Greyhawk was the setting most closely identified with the development of the AD&D.

Combined with the “Greyhawk’s World” articles from the original Dragon magazine (back when TSR insisted that it be called THE Dragon) – Greyhawk seemed almost real. Sure, its culture and society made little sense, its religious system was laughable and its geography dodgy – but I loved it all the same.

The world itself started as a simple dungeon under a castle designed by Gary Gygax for the amusement of his children and friends, but it rapidly expanded to include not only a complex multi-layered dungeon environment, but also the nearby city of Greyhawk, and eventually an entire world. In addition to the campaign world, which was published in several editions over twenty years, Greyhawk was also used as the setting for many adventures published in support of the game, as well as for RPGA’s massively shared Living Greyhawk campaign from 2000–2008.

My current campaign is homegrown – based on the Arden supplement originally developed for Chivalry and Sorcery – but my version of Arden owes more than a little to those original AD&D games played in Greyhawk.

Thanks for the good times, Gary.



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