|YMMV • Radar • Quotes • (Funny • Heartwarming • Awesome) • Fridge • Characters • Fanfic Recs • Nightmare Fuel • Shout Out • Plot • Tear Jerker • Headscratchers • Trivia • WMG • Recap • Ho Yay • Image Links • Memes • Haiku • Laconic • Source • Setting|
A Dungeons and Dragons setting, originally developed by Gary Gygax by amalgamating his and his friends' campaign worlds. As a result, it's often thought of as the "default" setting, to the point where, when the core rulebooks for Dungeons and Dragons have any flavor at all, it's generally Greyhawk-related flavor.
In the Planescape and Spelljammer settings, the world of Greyhawk is part of a larger universe that also includes Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms. The setting is named after the great Free City of Greyhawk, a sprawling metropolis that lies at the heart of the Flanaess, a continent on the world of Oerth. Ravaged by centuries of warfare, contested by dozens of races and organizations, the Flanaess is crawling with monsters to slay, ruins to loot, and vile magicians to foil. A very generic high fantasy setting, but one which suits the game's needs perfectly.
Greyhawk was originally introduced as an optional supplement, Supplement 1: GREYHAWK, by Gary Gygax and Robert J. Kuntz, in 1975. Unlike later setting material, Supplement 1: GREYHAWK focused on optional rules as opposed to towns, monsters, etc. The rules introduced for Greyhawk evolved into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and Greyhawk remained the default setting until the release of Fourth Edition. During this time, numerous setting supplements, magazine articles, and adventure booklets were released for the setting, including The Temple of Elemental Evil and The Tomb of Horrors.
There have been several Greyhawk novels, but the line never reached the same level of success as D&D's Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms franchises. Perhaps the most notable was the "Gord the Rogue" series by Gary Gygax, the tales of a dashing burglar from the City of Greyhawk.
Between 2004 and 2006, Mirrostone Books has published The Knights of the Silver Dragon series, which takes place in the Greyhawk city of Curston.
The fate of the Greyhawk setting under current canon is uncertain at best. While officially it has been discontinued, the Dungeons and Dragons franchise has dropped and revived settings in the past. Furthermore, the "look and feel", as well as many innovations introduced for the setting, such as the Paladin class and the Beholder and Dark Elf races, remain part of Fourth Edition.
The World of Greyhawk contains examples of the following tropes:
- Artifact Of Good / Artifact of Doom: There are several of these, such as the Crook of Rao (good) and the Scorpion Crown (evil).
- Author Avatar: Mordenkainen (Who you may recognize for being the author of many spells of inconsistent quality) was originally Gary Gygax's player character. Zagyg almost certainly was also an avatar for Gygax.
- Back From the Dead: After Rary killed him, Tenser was revived through a clone of himself he had hidden away. Of course, this being D&D, there are quite a few ways this can happen.
- Boisterous Bruiser: Lord Robilar.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Rary of Ket was always seen as the most reserved and soft-spoken member of the Circle of Eight. Then he killed two of his friends and tried to Take Over the World.
- Blondes Are Evil / Evil Redhead: The ancient, defunct Suel Imperium, whose humans were fair-skinned and -haired, was clearly more wicked than its enemy the Baklunish Empire. Its modern descendants, the suloise ethnic group, has mostly managed to cast off the attitude and reputation,
- The Brute: Warduke. Originally a D&D action figure from the '80s, an issue of Dungeon retconned Warduke as the martial champion of the Horned Society (an empire of devil-worshippers). A hulking monster of a man, Warduke is presented as the ultimate physical threat in a non-epic campaign.
- The Chessmaster: Mordenkainen.
- Crossover: Greyhawk has crossed over with numerous other D&D settings, though most of these crossovers are of dubious canon at best.
- Oerth is one D&D world among many connected through the Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and Planescape campaign settings, at least until 3rd Edition when different settings were given their own cosmologies.
- Vecna and his traitorous lieutenant, Kas, were briefly imprisoned in the Demiplane of Dread, home of the Ravenloft setting. Azalin Rex, one of the archvillains of Ravenloft, also originally hailed from Oerth.
- One of the last 2nd edition scenarios, Die, Vecna, Die!, took the players on a tour of many settings, among them Greyhawk, Ravenloft and Planescape to stop said Vecna in his bid for godhood. The canon nature of several events there is hard to doubt considering that Vecna was at least partially successful if 3rd edtion is anything to go by.
- Duke Rowan Darkwood, one of the prime movers in the Planescape setting, was born on Oerth. He later used magic to travel to the world of Forgotten Realms, and from there to the City of Sigil in Planescape.
- Mordenkainen, along with Elminster from Forgotten Realms and Dalamar from Dragonlance, was one of the "Wizards Three", a trio of archmages who met for friendly get-togethers in a humorous column in Dragon written by Ed Greenwood.
- The grandson of Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun from Forgotten Realms, Khelben the Younger, took up planewalking and settled down on Oerth.
- Completely canon however is the presence of various spells bearing the name of Greyhawk mages (such as Mordenkainen) in other settings. One would suspect Planewalkers were involved at some point.
- Crossover Cosmology: Iuz is the grandson of both Baba Yaga and (maybe) Nyarlathotep.
- Crystal Dragon Mohammed: The faith of Al'Akbar, the patron demigod of the Baklunish people, is strongly based on Islam, down to the division between Shiite and Sunni sects. His holy artifacts, the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar, were originally published in Strategic Review #7 as fictional Muslim relics.
- The name is rather revealing - it's a shortened version of "Allah akbar", "God is great", a common muslim saying.
- Demon Lords and Archdevils: Most of the notable demon lords have had a hand in Oerth's affairs. Most notable are Graz'zt, the father of the half-demon demigod Iuz; Fraz-Urb'luu, a demon prince trapped under the ruins of Castle Greyhawk for centuries; Demogorgon, Prince of Demons, who launched a bid to conquer all of Oerth in the Savage Tide adventure series in Dungeon magazine; Lolth, Spider-Queen of the dark elves, who has ravaged both Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms; and Zuggtmoy, the Demon Lady of Fungi, who conspired with Iuz to build the infamous Temple of Elemental Evil.
- Devil but No God: Tharizdun, an Omnicidal Maniac Eldritch Abomination, is the ultimate force of evil in the cosmology, having the power to force all other evil deities and fiends to do his bidding; there is no corresponding good counterpart. A direct confrontation between Tharizdun and the forces of good would have destroyed the multiverse, so the neutral gods tricked him into sealing himself into a trap.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The racist, blond- or red-haired Scarlet Brotherhood are basically Nazis.
- The Dragon: Saint Kargoth to Demogorgon. Also Kas to Vecna.
- Eldritch Abomination: In addition to the expected D&D aberration races such as mind flayers and aboleths, Oerth has Dread Tharizdun, an Omnicidal Maniac Mad God said to be a swirling spiral of black entropy, who wishes to return all of existence to oblivion. Every other god teamed up together to imprison him long ago, but he(?) constantly chomps at the bit, thanks to links to lesser abomination spawn and the odd evil temple or Artifact of Doom.
- The Empire: The Empire of Iuz. The Scarlet Brotherhood try to be this, but rebellions and to a lesser degree internal stuggles hamper them a bit.
- The Emperor: The god-king Iuz.
- God-Emperor, then.
- Evil Overlord: Iuz. Mad overking of the Great Kingdom Ivid V was one before his kingdom sundered itself into fractious successor-states.
- Evil Sorcerer: Many.
- Rary the Traitor, a formerly heroic wizard who turned on his companions, the Circle of Eight.
- The undead Acererak, a skeletal wizard who's been dead for so long that all that's left of him is his skull. Easily the most sadistic sonuvabitch in the entire history of tabletop gaming, all thanks to his abode: the Tomb of Horrors.
- Vecna: The ultimate evil sorcerer made good. Er, evil. Star of a series of popular adventures (including the awesomely named Die, Vecna, Die!), Vecna ultimately achieved actual godhood as Oerth's God of Secrets.
- Following Vecna's apotheosis, one of the most powerful mortal spellcaster on Oerth is the witch Iggwilv (who tips the scales at 30th level! For comparison, the strongest nonevil mortal wizard, Mordenkainen, is 27th level), a binder of demons who influences her son Iuz's empire.
- Not to mention, she sleeps with Graz'zt. There's binding, and then there's binding.
- Evil Versus Evil: Evil groups like the Horned Society, Iuz, the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Aerdi kingdoms and Turrosh Mak are just as apt to fight and plot against each other as they are the forces of good.
- Face Heel Turn: Rary and Robilar.
- Fantastic Racism: Plenty to go around, especially since several groups haven't even shaken off ordinary, intra-species racism.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Baklunish people are similar to real-world Middle Easterners. The Olmans and the Flan are clearly based on Native Americans-the Flan on northern First Nations (Cree, Sioux, Iroquois, etc.), and the Olman on the southern nations, especially the Maya and Aztecs. It's implied that the Rhenee are Roma, having arrived on Oerth from another place called "Rhop"--possibly Europe. The Great Kingdom of Aerdy had a Holy Roman Empire vibe to it.
- The Flan are a bit peculiar about this- they once had thriving, advanced kingdoms about two millenia ago or more, from which extremely powerful spellcasters like Vecna and Acererak came; by the time of the the Twin Cataclysms and the Great Migrations a little over a thousand years ago, however, they had reverted to "primitive" tribal enclaves for unknown reasons (although giving rise to at least two of the setting's greatest evil sorcerers could be related to said reasons...). Also, several of the more successful Flan groups quickly integrated in or adopted the newcomers' hierarchy, meaning that sizeable flan-blooded populations are rather common, and a few nations are dominated by this ethnic group.
- Fantasy Gun Control: Guns are generally accepted not to work on Oerth, although exceptions are made in some cases for the hero-god Murlynd and his paladins.
- Five Races: Humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes and halflings.
- For Science! / For the Lulz: The mad archmage Zagig Yragerne created the wacky demiplanes of Dungeonland and the Isle of the Ape pretty much just because he could.
- God of Evil: There are dozens of evil gods, though Tharizdun is the one who most closely embodied pure, destructive evil.
- God's Hands Are Tied: It's generally accepted that the gods cannot intervene directly on Oerth, and can only act through their mortal servants. This typically takes the form of granting divine spells, although they can act on a larger scale if their mortal servants meet the right conditions, such as using an Artifact of Doom. Exceptions to the rule are gods who actually dwell on the Prime Material Plane such as Iuz and Wastri (who tend to be among the weakest gods (AKA demigods), though still far more powerful than most mortals). St. Cuthbert has also appeared on the material plane on a couple of occasions, although it's implied that the gods of evil may be able to do the same at some point to restore the balance.
- Good Is Not Nice, verging into Light Is Not Good: The church of ostensibly Lawful Good god Pholtus, who commonly start prayers with the worryingly appropriate "O blinding light"; they have a strong streak of intolerance towards any other religion, even other good and lawful ones, considering non-Pholtus worshippers to be misguided, heathens or heretics, and advance a form of proto-monotheism with Pholtus as the sole god worthy of worship; taken Up to Eleven in the Theocracy of the Pale, where martial law and The Inquisition have been active for 200 years, who considers all other nations to be wretched hives for not worshipping Pholtus exclusively, and which has territorial and religious imperialistic designs on all its neighbours. Their hat is pretty much being Knight Templars. Consequently, they're considered Lawful Neutral as a whole rather than Lawful Good.
- Hidden Elf Village: The elven kingdom of Celene, which refused to aid its human allies during the Greyhawk Wars. The elven race as a whole tends to subvert this, as while they will help humans and other races in need they're just more comfortable living among their own kind. Even within Celene itself, many elves disagreed with their queen's decision to not help their human neighbours, and work to help the humans anyway.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: The character of Rary was originally conceived of as a spiritualist. That is: the Medium, Rary.
- Has anyone ever killed him by knocking him over a cliff? "My, that's a long way to tip a Rary."
- And the Nyr Dyv, the lake of unknown depths. "Nyr Dyv" is pronounced like "near dive." Get it?
- Irony: The toad-like demigod Wastri, whose priests themselves become more toadlike over time, is basically the patron of humanocentric Fantastic Racism, amusingly enough. Lampshaded in The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer:
The fact that he dislikes nonhuman races, yet is only barely human himself, is an irony lost on the godling.
- Lady Land: The city of Hardby was founded by a Suel witch as a monument to the superiority of womankind after men caused a great magical war, and is traditionally ruled by an all-female council of gynocrats led by a despotrix. However, in recent years, male-dominated guilds and trade unions have been chipping away at their power.
- Left Justified Fantasy Map: Inverted--to the west lies the trackless Sea of Dust, all that remains of the Suel Imperium after the Rain of Colorless Fire burnt it to ashes. The ocean lies to the east and south.
- Lovable Rogue: Gord.
- Mad God: Several evil gods come off as at least sociopaths or psychopaths, but two gods deserve special mention: Zagyg (who prior to ascention was known as the mad archmage, and hasn't become any saner afterwards; not evil, though) and Dread Tharizdun (a Cosmic Horror wanting to unravel the universe; basically the Ultimate Evil).
- Malevolent Architecture: Castle Greyhawk is one big, mile-deep Death Trap. The Tomb of Horrors, meanwhile, makes Castle Greyhawk look like one o' them bouncy castles.
- The Man Behind the Man: Iggwilv to Iuz, and to a lesser extent, Graz'zt to Iggwilv. Although given the peculiarities of their relationship (both are basically Tsundere for each other, and both have Out-Gambitted the other quite a few times), it's hard to say who's the boss at any given time.
- Mirror Universe: Oerth has several parallel worlds, including Aerth, Yarth, and Earth (and possibly Mystara and Nerath). The most notable, though, is Uerth, where everyone's alignment is switched (most notably Bilarro, the evil double of Robilar).
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Iuz the Evil, Rary the Traitor, Dread Tharizdun, Ivid the Undying...
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: The demon Fraz-Urb'luu was released from his imprisonment by two foolish adventurers.
- So were Iuz, Zuggtmoy and many many others--mostly by the same band of intrepid adventurers (Gary Gygax's original gaming group).
- Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Circle of Eight, founded by Mordenkainen to manipulate events across the Flaeness.
- Our Dwarves Are All the Same: But of course. The evil duergar got their start here, but they're the same kind of evil gray dwarves found on most standard D&D worlds so the point still stands.
- Our Elves Are Better: Actually, Our Elves Are Pretty Standard, all things considered. This was where the dark elves first arrived in D&D, though. Unlike Forgotten Realms, however, the drow here have no heroic rebel (whether mortal like Drizz't or divine like Eilistraee) to show they have good in them; they're consequently pretty much Always Chaotic Evil (True Neutral is probably the best you can hope for on either of the alignment axes, and even then you're probably being a Wide-Eyed Idealist).
- Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Well, not really in this case; they're completely conventional D&D gnomes with the regular subraces like svirfneblin familiar to most players.
- Our Orcs Are Different: Out of all the D&D settings, the orcs of Greyhawk are probably the worst, if only because they have no notable heroes to show off their Proud Warrior Race Guy side (well, there's Turrosh Mak, but he's clearly too much on the "total asshole" side of things to be seen as admirable). They're very much of the "Tolkienian Orc" model, especially in early editions when they looked like pigs.
- There is a notable exception to this rule, though; the sultanate of Zeif has a sizeable population (10%, or about 140-150,000) of integrated orcs, descendants of mercenaries hired by the ancient Baklunish empire who mostly assimilated into the culture of the survivors over the last thousand years.
- Phantom Thief: Gord the Rogue. He steals mainly for the challenge (and because he loves treasure).
- Physical God: All of the gods are capable of taking material form, but the ones who most often walk the Oerth are Iuz, who rules an Evil Empire as its god-king, and Saint Cuthbert, who often dispatches avatars to fight Iuz.
- Religion of Evil: Kinda comes with the territory when you have a bunch of evil gods active. Fortunately, there's just as many good gods (and just as many neutral gods) with their own churches.
- Retcon: After Gygax and Kuntz both left TSR, in the Greyhawk Wars storyline, Kuntz's character Lord Robilar betrayed his friends, killing some of them; Kuntz was none too happy. Twenty years later, Wizards of the Coast published Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, in which it's retconned that Robilar had been replaced by an evil double from a Mirror Universe.
- Science Fantasy: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. It concerns a crashed spaceship filled with aliens and robots--in the fantasy world of Greyhawk. The players can even hijack a suit of Powered Armor and take it with them after the adventure ends (though thankfully it has limited fuel). Needless to say, many fans consider it Fanon Discontinuity.
- Sealed Evil in a Can: Several examples.
- Iuz (and eight other demigods, including two other evil ones) were trapped beneath Castle Greyhawk by Zagig Yragerne, who siphoned off their power to become a god himself.
- Fraz-Urb'luu was also trapped in Castle Greyhawk by Zagig, presumably as a practice run for his gambit at godhood.
- At the beginning of time, the unspeakably powerful and insane Tharizdun was trapped in a remote demiplane by the rest of the gods.
- Star Power: Celestian is the deity of space and the stars. He has a number of space/star related powers, including Aurora Borealis, Comet, Meteors, Space Chill and Starshine.
- Take That: The bizarre Egg of Coot, a ruler in the Blackmoor area, was a jab at a certain Gregg Scott, who ran a wargames miniatures company and with whom Dave Arneson had previously clashed.
- Technical Pacifist: The clerics of Zodal, god of mercy, are allowed to fight but typically deal nonlethal damage.
- Theme Naming: Ernest Gary Gygax named a huge number of people and locations after himself, including Yrag, Tenser, Urnst, and of course, Zagyg/Zagig Yragerne.
- A lot of other people were named after Gygax's players and children, or drawn from other mundane sources:
- Drawmij, of "Drawmij's instant summons" spell fame, is Jim Ward's character. Spell Jim Ward backwards...
- Melf ("Melf's acid arrow"), a male elf character, was named from what appeared at the top of the character sheet: M Elf.
- To truly understand Mordenkainen's dedication to neutrality and balance, consider this: Mordenkainen released a sealed evil demigod from beneath Castle Greyhawk, simply because good was "too powerful". Thanks, Mordenkainen.
- A lot of other people were named after Gygax's players and children, or drawn from other mundane sources:
- The Undead: Notables include the liches Acererak and Vecna, described above. Also the first death knight, Saint Kargoth; the vampire Kas; and the piteous, zombielike King Ivid the Undying.
- Ivid's state was a bit of Laser-Guided Karma, though; in his insanity, he arranged to get evil clerics to create a new type of powerful, free-willed undead, the Animus. He then proceeded to give the "gift" of death and reanimation as an animus to scores of lords, generals and priests without bothering to find out if they wanted it. Needless to say, a lot of his supporting hierarchy was either pissed or terrified they would be next; his own animus transformation following his assassination shattered what little lucidity he had left, leaving a paranoid, gibbering and unpredictable wreck, whose only notable accomplishment was completing the ruin of the Great Kingdom, his own realm.
- Vain Sorceress: Iggwilv, the Witch of Perrenland, the mother of Iuz and on-again-off-again consort of the demon Graz'zt. She appears as a stunningly beautiful young woman and sadistically kills anyone who sees her true form--a hideous crone.
- Vestigial Empire: The fractured Great Kingdom, now split into numerous warring states.
- The successor-states born from its final collapse are at each other's throats, but those successor-states who'd seceded in the previous centuries (the Great Kingdom's been losing chunks for a long time) get along pretty well for the most part.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Rary just wants to bring peace to all of Oerth... by crushing it under his heel.
- Mordenkainen wants to keep balance, even if it means unsealing evil demigods and razing entire kingdoms.
- Wretched Hive: The Vault of the Drow and the village of Nulb.
- Eastfair, capital of Great Kingdom successor-state North Kingdom is noted as being a reflection of the debauchery of its monarch, Overking Grenell.