Sunday, August 31, 2014

Greyhawk is a mess

The Marklands, 20 miles per hex
In the process of getting ready for my 5E Greyhawk sandbox campaign (in two weeks - yikes!), I started where I always start. Maps. So in the process of trying to put together a map of the Gnarley Forest and the surrounding environs, I went to the sources and started to put them all together.

And I discovered that the official cartography of the central Flanaess is a complete and utter mess.

The region is well-covered. There's the original Darlene map, of course, but there's also the region map from the City of Greyhawk boxed set, the campaign map from From the Ashes, the wilderness maps from Temple of Elemental Evil and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, one of the maps from The Marklands, the map from Rary the Traitor, and the Domains of Greyhawk map from the Player's Guide.

From the Ashes, 6 miles per hex
Now, naturally, they don't have a consistent scale. That would be too easy. Some have hexes, some do not. And the fact that they span some 15 years of in-game time doesn't help, but it's hardly insurmountable; the number of major geographic features that change during that time is manageable; mostly forts and castles that are built.

But what's incredibly frustrating are the details. Many of the maps don't line up, even when they're blown up to a consistent scale. Coastlines are inconsistent, rivers are off their courses by many miles, and forests ebb and flow like the tide.

Villages move from place to place; one notable example is the village of Walthain in Furyondy. In the FtA Campaign map, it's about 50 miles away from the village of Dianrift, and a road heads inland from Sendrift (another 40 miles along the coast) into the interior of Furyondy. But in the Marklands map, the two villages are suddenly 20 miles closer to one another, and the road now heads inland from Walthain, which is ten miles further away from Sendrift than it was before! Plus, the coast of the Nyr Dyv doesn't line up between the two maps at all; in one it has a much more pronounced northward swoop than in the other, where it's relatively flat.

Rary the Traitor, no lake
Perhaps the most annoying/hilarious is the case of the disappearing lake in the Abbor-Alz. In the FtA map, there's a lake near a camp named Marstefel, which the accompanying campaign book tells us is a semi-permanent camp inhabited by tribesmen. But in Rary the Traitor, both the lake and the tribesman camp are gone, replaced by a castle called Griffon's Nest, inhabited by the self-styled Bandit King of the Abbor-Alz! The castle is apparently quite old, having been abandoned by dwarves in years past. And the two products supposedly both take place in the same time-frame, CY585.

From the Ashes, behold a lake!
So it's taking some creative tinkering to get everything to fit together. In the process it's almost impossible to avoid contradicting some previously published material, since it seems to contradict itself! Still, I muddle through, but it is a mess.