Friday, February 3, 2012

Natural Campaign Areas in Greyhawk

One of the great things about the World of Greyhawk is that it isn't just one setting. It's multiple settings, all of which are adjacent to, overlap with, and/or interact with the others. Over the many years I've been using the setting, five stand out to me either as regions that I have used myself, or seem to cry out for treatment unto themselves, because they work so well as self-contained sub-regions of the whole.


Region 1 is the Sheldomar Valley. The natural boundaries that surround it render it relatively isolated and thus perfect for a self-contained campaign. On three sides there are mountains, and water on the fourth. It features a single dominant political entity (the Kingdom of Keoland), which is itself surrounded by independent and, in many cases, resentful states. On its very fringes, the mountains hold many secrets (the Against the Giants series was set in the Crystalmist/Jotens/Hellfurnaces range, of course, and there's the spaceship from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, not to mention the Valley of the Mage itself as a destination for adventure).

Region 2 is the central Flanaess. This, of course, is where Gary Gygax rooted his own campaign, and it shows. It has a great variety of terrains, from woods to plains to desert to marsh, plus the Rift Canyon. It is thematically centered around the city of Greyhawk itself, with Iuz (circa 576, remember, with Iuz only recently freed from the ruins of Castle Greyhawk and still "Old Iuz of fearbabe-talk") as a distant but still relevant enemy to be invoked. The whole revolves around the Nyr Dyv, and the tensions originally described in the World of Greyhawk folio set are really a great environment for an adventure. There's the city of Greyhawk, Castle Greyhawk, White Plume Mountain, and the Village of Hommlet/Temple of Elemental Evil. Again, not an accident.

Region 3 is South Province and the Iron League. This has intrigued me ever since the "State of the Flanaess" articles penned by Gygax and Kuntz back in the early 1980's in Dragon Magazine, which portrayed the slow and deliberate march to war between the two powers (with the added bonus of the rivalry between South Province and Medegia, itself complicated by the looming presence of the Overking in Rauxes). This would make a great place for a military-themed campaign, or even a stand-alone miniatures campaign.

Region 4 is the Aerdi Sea, and again it's doubtless no coincidence that this region was originally Len Lakofka's Lendore Isle campaign. The tension between the Spindrift Islanders and the Lords of the Isles, against once again the forces of the Great Kingdom (itself split between Medegia and the Sea Barons) would make a terrific place for a long-term nautical themed campaign.

And, finally, if you want Vikings, look no further than region 5, the Thillronian Penninsula. Put together five competing barbarian nations, and several struggling outposts of civilization under their onslaught (said civilized kingdoms very well defined, such as the Pale and Tenh), and you've got the makings of a terrific campaign.

This isn't to say, of course, that one couldn't start up a campaign anywhere in the Flanaess; one of its strengths that has stood the test of time is its versatility. But it's also a testament to both its origins as a patchwork of several campaigns of its own as well as the guiding hand of its overall original designer that it works so well on several levels.

12 comments:

mortellan said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. My Sea Princes campaign (in your region 1) is really the first time I've dedicated so much time to that area(it's hard not to do #2). Gradually, due to the nautical theme I'm drifting toward overlap with region 3 and 4 too. So yeah I've noticed how they are settings within settings and when handled that way it makes writing stories more focused and easy.

Old Guy said...

I've never run a campaign within Greyhawk, but if I did I think I'd use Admundfort (on the isle in the Nyr Dyv) as a starting area. My players have a tremendous fear of sea voyages that I would love for them to get past. Living on a huge lake might help (if I can keep the sea serpents at bay).

I have to ask, how did you manage such a beautiful scan? Did you use a poster-sized scanner? I've tried on a small flatbed scanner but had a terrible time piecing it together.

faoladh said...

There are at least two more, though I don't know of anyone who has done them: the Perrenland campaign, which would be much more cozy and probably focused on social matters (and the growing power of Iuz), and the Arabian game, probably centered around either Ket or Tusmit, depending on how Arabian the DM wants it to be.

Jeff Rients said...

Excellent post. I've played an entire campaign set in area 5 and it felt like an organic whole.

Joseph Bloch said...

Faoladh, I specifically didn't include Perrenland or the West. For Perrenland (I myself ran a Perrenland/Highfolk campaign for quite some time, and it was a hoot) it's too small to count as one of the regions I wanted to concentrate. It's certainly good campaign fodder, just not on the scale I'm discussing in this particular post.

For the West, I didn't include it because it's only half-finished. Gygax said he intended to continue the map and explore those regions to the west and south (at least), but as it stands, the world ends in Zeif. Again, it's not necessarily a bad choice for a campaign, but in terms of the self-contained regions I'm talking about here, it doesn't qualify.

Hendrid said...

Good post right enough. Food for thought anyway...

faoladh said...

Joseph: That's fair. The DIY DM would probably take the "unfinished" aspect of the West as a challenge, but I see why you'd want to stick just to the published world (and not the stuff made up later, by other people).

Timrod said...

Love love love the Greyhawk posts! Thanks

grodog said...

Hi Joe---

I've always wanted to run a Great Kingdom campaign, which in my head would span your regions 2 through 5 (although truncating most of 2 and 5). The closest I've come was running some of the events from the "Greyhawk's World" updates in conjunction with Rob's Maze of Zayene modules.

Allan.

Gene Sollows said...

The Iron League / Scarlet Brotherhood / South Province region is wonderful but relatively underdeveloped compared to the Keoland and Greyhawk/Wild Coast/Furyondy regions. In addition to the military campaign you posit, I could see a spy/infiltration sort of game. Hard to imagine a bunch of level 1s running around there in a traditional dungeon-crawl game, unless it was an Irongate-based city campaign to start. The region seems more suited to mid- and upper-level play.

Joseph Bloch said...

I dunno, Gene, I could definitely see a lower level game based in Naerie and exploring the various old mines and such in the Hollow Highlands. Might make things interesting to have dwarves and halflings as an obstacle to get around, rather than orcs and goblins...

Gary said...

Found this post on a search for the Hollow Highlands - running a campaign that is taking us toward the Lendore Isles and will include the "L" series of modules. However, I've been reading some on Naerie and its history and surrounding area and I love the idea of an old mining camp and the players exploring that. Also love the idea of a campaign focusing on Idee and leading up to the Greyhawk Wars. How can I get those Dragon articles??