Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greyhawk - What Might Have Been and What Has Been Lost

Greyhawk - What Might Have Been and What Has Been Lost

Inspired by Grendwulf's post over at his Axe & Hammer blog I tracked down the relevant articles by Gygax from Dragon Magazine (both the article quoted at Axe&Hammer and an earlier one from Dragon #35).

From the Sorcerers Scroll (Dragon #35 March 1980) By Gary Gygax

"...All of this (NOTE: The Massive Success of TSR at the time) has pretty well conspired to keep me from doing some of the things I should be - such as this column, modules like The Temple of Elemental Evil, and some half a dozen other manuscripts piled away in various stages of incompleteness.

...The two new game designs I was fooling around with will have to be set aside for a time but there is a long-desired and oft-worked-on project which I am desperately trying to save. This is what goes with the World of Greyhawk campaign map and gazetteer (Feb-Mar. release date), A huge map of the City of Greyhawk, modules based on the original Castle Greyhawk, and a series of offering which depict the Elemental Planes of Greyhawk. Parts or some of this have been done by me."

From the Sorcerers Scroll (Dragon #37 May 1980) By Gary Gygax

"...much of the original activity in the Greyhawk campaign in the huge City of Greyhawk. My initial map was only an 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of graph paper, but this was soon enlarged to a four-times size. Even that was too small, so extra large-scale sections were done up to supplement the main map. I have now gone to what amounts to about four-game-maps size to show the whole of the place in fair detail. The mapping isn't complete, and only a few of the most outstanding places are noted, as there is yet many months of work left before the design will be in shape to submit to TSR's Product Development Department. Sometime in 1981 or 1982, though, you should see a giant map and gazetteer for the City of Greyhawk being offered for sale. The gazetteer will detail the deities of the place not otherwise dealt with in modules or the like, by the way, and readers will learn more about "Old Iuz," the current menace from the state of that name, as well as know who Ralishaz is, why Hector is bad news in combat, and so on.

While that project is yet a ways off, modules of the World of Greyhawk are currently in the works. Skip Williams is working on my original outline for Shadowland, and from what I've seen so far, we should be able to have a final product out this year. The module will be an adventure on the Plane of Shadow - perhaps that should be Quasi-Plane of Shadow. Other such modules are also in the hopper.

... there might be as many as ten World of Greyhawk modules based on the planes by the end of 1981 or mid-1982...

To sum it all up the World of Greyhawk project will go on for several years, with the initial maps and gazetteer complemented by rules for miniature figure recreation of the warfare of the place...

... next will come a series of modules - one this year, and then many more through the next couple of years. The City of Greyhawk might make a 1981 publication date, certainly 1982, and about the same time the series which will eventually represent the whole of the Dungeon of Castle Greyhawk will begin..."
In my youth I was promised jet-packs, space travel and moon cities, so I should not have been as surprised or as profoundly disappointed when the City of Greyhawk as well as the series of modules, Shadowland, the Dungeons of Castle Greyhawk and all the promise of these early days of TSR failed to materialize.

Now I look back and wish AD&D had not become as popular, not a tenth as popular to the point where TSR was bringing in millions of dollars in sales. It is a kind of Peter Principle, (if that term is still being used) of success. Not an employee promoted to a level where they are no longer competent, but instead a man, Gygax, with too successful a business and taken away from what made him a success, design and writing. Gygax needed time to create, to push through his creations to publication and instead he managed a business, pushed through a cartoon show, struggled to keep that business afloat.

I would have loved to have seen Gygax with enough money to devote to his creative works, but instead that time passed.

But what of all the fragments of those projects? I have read that Skip Williams used some of the work on Shadowland for the Planescape setting. I would love to see Gygax's original outline, or that 4 game size map version of the City of Greyhawk, I would dearly love to see that.

1981 release, certainly, 1982 and now 30 years later Gygax is gone, his original work lost or locked away and only the beginning of such projects as Castle Greyhawk/Castle Zagyg begun under his care and direction. I can only begin to imagine a less successful TSR with 30 years of Gygax creations under the belt. Perhaps less slick and more rough paper, mono colored covers, slim text but with a world of depth within the pages.

I have seen the Dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, Joe Bloch's massive Castle of the Mad Archmage and his beautiful rendition of the City of Greyhawk map. Grendelwulf's Greyhawk City project and his Armies of Oerth (another of the promised products never to materialize), and Chris Siren's massive Gord the Rogue reference work. So just maybe there will be jet packs and moon cities yet, or at least the City of Greyhawk map and gazetteer and dozens of City of Greyhawk adventures to go along with it.

What might have been? Ah well, let that go. What has been lost? Maybe these maps and notes will one day see the light of day. But what will be is now in our hands, and already big things have been accomplished and I firmly believe that big things are yet to come.


  1. In addition, Rob has commented that he wrote a considerable amount of material on the City for NIPI when they were looking at producing the city, dungeons, and environs.


  2. Hope Rob still has it around somewhere. I'd love to see him publish it in one form or another.

  3. I'm pretty sure he has it, Jason: I'll ask at the NTX con next week.


  4. There is also that great big map to the City of Greyhawk. I wonder if Rob has some type of copy of it.


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