As is natural and proper, all other worlds revolve around our own planet
Oerth, from the least rock to the vast burning sun itself.1 Little is
known of these worlds, though a set of magnfying lenses or magical cusps
reveals their curious shapes and colors, and their motions across the
sky are well charted. As any rational individual knows, these`wandering
stars' influence the lives of all beings on Oerth, and their positions
against the vault of night gives hints to learned astrologers about
events yet to come, revealing secrets fearful and sublime."
rotates on its axis once every 24 hours. The sun travels the sky from
east to west, revolving clockwise in its orbit around Oerth to make a
full circuit of the heavens every 364 days, following a fixed path
through the Twelve Lairs of the Zodiac. Through the Zodiac of the night
sky also pass the Great Moon of Oerth, known as Luna, and the Lesser
Moon, Celene, also called the handmaiden. Ghost-white Luna waxes and
wanes in a fixed cycle of 28 days, reaching fullness 13 times each year.
Aquamarine Celene passes through its phases more slowly, taking 91 days
for a full cycle and reaching fullness only four times a year. These
natural rhythms are reflected in the calendar used by civilized
inhabitants of our land."
is known that when both Luna and Celene are either full or new, and the
wandering stars have themselves achieved positions of power within the
Zodiac, events of great portent are likely to occur on our world, The
fate of civilization may be in the balance, and the involvement of great
magic is almost certain. The appearance of a falling star has further
significance, and a great pale comet or bright exploding star hovering
in the darkness is a harbinger of cataclysm."
will be said about the place of our grand world in the hierarchy of the
heavens, but we first turn to an analysis of the Zodiac and the special
influence of its lairs on our 0erth, first described by Baklunish
astrologers two millennia ago. . .”
Agath of 11runch
From Understanding the Handiwork of Celestian
- The Setting
is believed that there are four continents on Oerth, of which the
largest is Oerik. To the south and east of Oerik is the small continent
of Hepmonaland. An ice-covered continent caps Oerth's northern pole; it
is known as Telchuria or any of a number of variations on the name High
Boros. A large island to the east of Oerik is known as Fireland for the
many volcanoes there. At the opposite end of the world from the Flanaess
is a fourth continent, about which no more is known than that it exists.
northeastern most section is known as the Flanaess, which is isolated
from the rest of the continent by the Dramidj Ocean and a string of
towering mountain chains stretching from the Yatils down to the volcanic
Hellfurnaces; to the west of those are steppes and the horrific wastes
of the sea of dust, where the ancient Balunish Empire once lay. Beyond
these barriers, tales say, are great and ancient empires, mountains so
tall that they dwarf the great Crystalmists, and monsters of
the Flanaess is separated from the rest of Oerth by other natural
barriers. To the north lies the dangerous Land of Black Ice and the
aptly named Icy Sea; to the cast the immense, storm-racked Solnor Ocean,
said to stretch over a thousand leagues. To the southeast are the
jungles and swamps of tropical Hepmonaland; due south is the huge Densac
Gulf and the wild Amedio jungle.
Flanaess has seen great treacheries and greater wars. A few years ago, a
widespread conflict called the Greyhawk Wars damaged the fabric of life
here, perhaps irreparably; the treaty which was supposed to have ended
the wars has been broken again and again, and borders everywhere are in
turmoil. The corrupt and decayed Great Kingdom has finally fallen, but
new realms have arisen to take its place - each with the potential to be
even more evil than its predecessor. A horrifying demigod has been freed
from captivity; despite the loss of many of his fiendish troops, his
expanded empire threatens the heart of the Flanaess. A mysterious
brotherhood has reached out from its southern stronghold to begin a
conquest of certain countries - a conquest that may not end until the
Flanaess itself is destroyed. Armies of humanoids - brutish creatures
with both human and bestial features - march across the land: Though
some have been repelled, still there are lost lands to be won. Giants
and creatures drawn from alien planes lay waste to civilization.
Barbarians, assassins and monsters run rampant.
the Flanaess is alive and vibrant. The times are more peaceful than they
have been, and for many, life goes on as it always has - there are crops
to be gathered, markets to visit, roofs to rebuild. Other, more
adventurous types strike out against the enemies of civilization and
order, uncover lost and forgotten treasures, and gain the resources they
need to become the heroes and leaders of this exciting new time. There
are captured realms to be retaken, artifacts to be rediscovered and
used, and incredible lands beyond the Flanaess to explore. It is an age
of adventure with no limit to what one person can achieve.
follows should help define the world of Greyhawk. It is the world (Oerth)
in which your character lives and this document should help portray its
flavor and give you an insight into the style of play.
Internal Historic Consistency
has a strong internal se
nse of history. Greyhawk is a storied realm.
It's seminal figures, good and ill, are interwoven throughout the
setting. It has a defined
history that strongly influences the present and future of the setting.
Greyhawk's history is not a footnote but an integral part of the
setting that must be understood to truly comprehend the relationships
among men, nations and even gods.
Player Resolution of
seminal events in Greyhawk's current history and development are all
presented such that players may not only take part but play a leading
role. For example: Players defeated Lolth.
Players turned the tide of Iuz
aced Vecna. In the Forgotten Realms, for example, Ao decrees an event
and the players get to clean up in the aftermath. Cyric destroys Zhentil
Keep offstage and the players get to delve into the ruins. Gods die to
be replaced by mortals and the players watch. Elminster sends players on
a mission but ultimately keeps from them the greater goal the mission
serves. When you play in Greyhawk, you join in the weaving of a tapestry
of which you are a vital part. Greyhawk
is about your story in the context of Greyhawk's story.
Roleplaying in Greyhawk involves playing your part in what will
be my longest running AD&D campaign in existence.
It is bigger than you are but you can become as great as it is.
That is the essence of Greyhawk's history.
It enfolds, informs and connects every part of the setting and
all who play there for any length of time.
Reward More Often Than They Advise or Direct
in Greyhawk are not godlike figures who direct the course of events upon
which your character is washed like the tide. Neither do they
persistently show up to advise you.
They may do both but more often they serve as the measuring stick
against which your character's performance can be judged and serve to
reward your character by recognizing their accomplishments or otherwise
admitting your character into their august company. The Circle of Eight
are aloof. They do not want
to be your buddy. Neither
do they have a laundry list of chores for you to perform.
Rather, in Greyhawk you will find adventure without such NPCs
suggesting it. In the Forgotten Realms, for example, Elminster is famous
for sending characters on their way.
The Harpers do the same. Ultimately, Elminster or the Harpers
play the directing role and may indeed appear to steal the show or
otherwise claim ultimate victory. In Greyhawk, YOU are the hero.
Without assistance from the likes of the Circle of Eight and
without them acting as a safety net.
You can go your own way, in fact, without them ever troubling
you. This cannot be so
simply said in settings such as the Forgotten Realms and has not a
little to do with Criteria No. 2 (Player Resolution of Critical Events
in Greyhawk vs. NPC Resolution of Critical Events in FR).
in Greyhawk is persistent. It
is halted, checked or imprisoned but it is not defeated with finality
for all time. The triumph
over evil is a relative thing, ultimately transitory. Evil in Greyhawk
is personified. Evil has
faces and names attached to it that ring down through the setting's
history. It is not an evil
that pops up purely to give the players something to strive against and
defeat before moving on to the next evil that similarly appears out of
relative nowhere. Vecna, Iuz, Lolth, Tharzidun, the Scarlet Brotherhood,
Aerdi, Kas, even Turrosh Mak, all met this criteria.
They are highly personified forces that spring from the settings
in Greyhawk runs the gambit from the cosmic menace of Tharzidun, to the
planar peril of Lolth, to the cambion menace of Iuz, to the purely moral
menace of Turrosh Mak. Their
is variety in the villainy. Villainy
in Greyhawk is like a box of chocolates from Hell; you never know for
sure what you are going to get. Greyhawk's villains do not announce
themselves; you have to figure it out. Villains in Greyhawk will also
turn on each other. The Iuz/Vecna
conflict being perhaps the most famous.
With a Price
heros rarely slay the evil wizard, who will trouble the land no more, to
the full voiced cheers of the crowd.
Best Iuz and you are marked.
He will be back but you will have to deal with a likely enraged
Zuggotomy in the meanwhile. Greyhawk's
villains don't exist in a vacuum and neither do Greyhwk's heroes.
Everything is linked. Heroism has a meaning within the setting that
makes it more than a solitary act echoing in the vastness.
It attracts attention, good and ill.
It is immediate and brings a notoriety that other settings can
only talk about. Notables
exist to recognize your accomplishments and to measure you against
themselves and the foe you defeated.
And, they will have likely played little or no role in your
victory. Evil too takes
your measure for darker reasons. This criterion can best be seen in the
breach. The juxtaposition
of people and places and the loose ends creates this effect.
Oerth, the forces of neutrality are arguably at least as powerful as
those of good and evil and certainly as active. Greyhawk is not
concerned with the triumph of good over evil.
The very nature of the evils loose on Oerth makes such triumphs
fleeting at best. Greyhawk
endures evil and circumvents it. It
does not defeat it. Evil forces, of course, will attempt to conquer
Oerth. And just as certainly they will be opposed by forces who will
seek to banish evil from the world.
Neither will succeed. Neither
in the long history of Oerth has ever succeeded.
Good and evil are well enough matched that outcomes are never
certain and always close calls one way or the other.
Moreover, evil on Oerth is not monolithic.
Various demon lords and ladies contend with each other.
Iuz battles Vecna. Kas
seeks Vecna's destruction. Iuz
feuds with his mother and father. Evil beings are true to no one save
themselves. Perhaps accounting for all of this, Oerth has strong and
active neutrally aligned forces, working to preserve a balance between
good and evil. While hardly
organized, these forces nonetheless manage to be quite effective.
The Circle of Eight, mighty wizards all, seeks a middle path.
Istus, the divine Lady of Fate, tests all but favors none.
Druids are a quiet but ever present presence.
Indeed, many of Greyhawk's deities reflect a distinct neutral
bent. Greyhawk is about struggle against evenly matched and long
is not a low fantasy setting save by comparison to settings on magical overload. Birthright is a
low fantasy setting. The Forgotten Realms is a high fantasy setting. Greyhawk falls in between.
What distinguishes magic in Greyhawk
is that it is highly personalized.Look at the spells. Mordenkain's
this. Nystul's that.
Otiluke's the other. Magic
is personalized by any wizard not of the hedge variety.
Look at the artifacts for still more proof. Spells have a history
as due magic items. While
there are +1 swords of no certain fame, many are the items with specific
magical instruction in Greyhawk is personal. Greyhawk does not know
great guilds of wizards but flourishes with a developed system of
apprenticeships. One need
but look at the Circle of Eight to see this.
They, with one, possibly two, exceptions, belong to no guild of
mages, and they that do belong do so as patrons at best and more
probably as figureheads. Neither
can the Circle itself be considered a guild.
This mighty example and the utter lack of a single magical guild
of any note, fairly well makes the case.
then are the eight traits that define the Greyhawk feel. Most critical
are Applied Internal Historic Consistency,
Persistent Personified Evil and Militant Neutrality points.
list defines Oerth and presents the Grey in “Greyhawk”
Gary Gygax has refuted this claim, which was made "in character" in the World of Greyhawk Glossography (1983), but was rendered "canonical" by Greyspace (1992). I, however, hold Gygax's original intention to be the fact. The notion that even with magic to help them, the great thinkers can be fundamentally wrong about something such as this is very interesting and adds depth to the campaign.