It’s no coincidence I’m posting this on the day after the 10 year anniversary of Gygax’s death. May he continue to rest in peace.
What is it?
It’s the AD&D Second Edition version of Castle Greyhawk. No, it’s not written by Gary Gygax. Designers Blake Mobley and Timothy Brown consulted some of the players who when through the original version(s) of that famous dungeon. It’s a megadungeon with lots of level to explore, a campaign in its own right.
Why did I buy it?
I found it for $70 at a used book store. It was in very good shape, and I wanted to treat myself to a graduation present after I received my Master’s degree.
Why did I sell it?
1. I needed the cash.
I sold it for slightly more than the price I purchased it.
2. The module was not-GM friendly.
The usability of module was hindered by these weird isometric maps in the back. It was hard to tell the scale on these maps. While many of the encounters in the dungeon were interesting enough, the font and the layout were too busy and blockish–for the lack of of better term. This was a reoccurring issue.
3. Being reminded that its not Gygax’s original dungeon.
We would never see a full complete version of Castle Greyhawk. The legal wranglings of Gygax’s post-TSR days prevented this from happening.
In 1988, TSR insulted many fans with WG7: Castle Greyhawk, a joke module full of satire and bad puns, written by a dozen game designers. Some of whom are still active in RPGs today.
Then Greyhawk Ruins was published in 1990, and it did take a more serious approach, but I think the damage to the official Greyhawk setting was irreversible at this point. For some fans, the pall over the setting would only grow.
In 2000, the World of Greyhawk became the official default setting for D&D 3.0. Yet we wouldn’t see Expedition to the Ruins of Castle Greyhawk until 2007. Again, not Gygax’s dungeon, but based on the 1990 version.
In the meantime, Gygax had begun writing for Troll Lord Games. They started publishing the Castle Zagyg series around 2005 for Castles and Crusades RPG, a rules-lite d20 system.
And in the end they produced everything but the dungeons beneath Castle Zagyg/Greyhawk. Not even Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, would fullfill this demand. After Gygax’s death, the intellectual property moved to Gygax Games.
Or, as Grognardia put it:
I remain unmoved from my repeated assertion that I am glad I own this and find much good in it, but I am equally unmoved from my belief that, as the final work from the pen of the Dungeon Master, it’s disappointing on numerous levels. Gygax Games has one more chance to fulfill the promise this megadungeon holds. Let’s see if they do so.
In my opinion, Troll Lord Games dangled a carrot out in front of Gygax fans as long as they could. Some part of me is still angry about this. Another part of me has no sympathy for the fans who bought into the series after Troll Lord Games published the core book riddled with editing errors and typos. What were you expecting?
And anything from Gygax Games was a forlorn hope which ended with more legal wrangling.
It’s just so damned depressing to know that Gygax and his legacy has been involved in legal disputes for 40 years, and because of this, as well as other business practices, fans would never have an official version of Gygax’s original megadungeon.
And that’s why I sold Greyhawk Ruins. I no longer wanted to be reminded of that sordid history whenever I saw it on my shelf.
I’ve made my peace with The World of Greyhawk’s destruction in 1988 in the book Dance of Demons. Gygax destroyed his own creation. How much more official does it have to be than that?
Anything published later bearing the Greyhawk name were derivatives. Some terrible. Others quite good.
We will never receive the original, whatever versions that might be, and I don’t think we should. If you were one of the fortunate ones to share in those early experiences in the dungeons beneath Castle Greyhawk, great.
Treasure those memories. They’re yours.
The rest of us will look at you with a hint of envy, before sitting down at the tabletop to create our own.