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Campaign Worlds & the Great Greyhawk Magic Number

A Brief Introduction

Let’s talk about someone else’s dirty laundry. And the laundry is so dirty, ha!

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m not the crotchety old D&D guy with a long white beard looking like a hippy reject expounding on the Good Old Days and claiming that AD&D is the final, be-all of RPGs and that everything that has come after is poo.

Because I love Pathfinder and D&D 5E. They done good. That’s a whole separate blog post. Their websites aren’t that great though. I could do a rant post about that—but I digress.

AD&D had a lot going for it, particularly the campaign setting of Greyhawk. I love Greyhawk. And it’s stupid the amount of Greyhawk fanfic I’ve written that I will never sell to anybody because I have no license for the intellectual property. The AD&D Greyhawk boxed set had the killer map. It had two books. It had the timelines, political factions galore, gods and weather. Bad guys and good guys and people in between. A “state of the union” section. Bandits, elves, dwarven princes, knights in shinny armor. Greyhawk was one great big imagination fuel creation machine and if I didn’t have such a burning desire to create my own worlds, the current campaign I am running would still be there today, after all these years.

Reading Between the TSR Lines

Product historian Shannon Appelcline writes: “When Gygax was asked to create the World of Greyhawk product, he was somewhat surprised that other GMs weren’t interested in creating their own worlds.”

Well, as someone whose built a campaign world from scratch, I’m not surprised, heh-heh-heh. Its time consuming and prone to a world-building exercise failure point in what I call “Blending Failure.” Blending raw creative juices, use recognizable or translatable troupes while staying fresh, plausible atmosphere and subsequent DM ease-of-use—these are all obtainable singularly but difficult to blend into a cohesive whole. The result of RPG world-building isn’t simply entertainment, it’s spurring and nurturing the imagination of a GM so he or she can tailor a world to the desires of players and GM alike.

Greyhawk wasn’t just all the things. It was all the things made possible within the two books and the map!

Shannon goes on further (emphasis mine):

Over the years, TSR and Wizards have published a few more overviews of the portion of Oerth that was depicted in the World of GreyhawkFrom the Ashes (1992), Greyhawk Player’s Guide (1998), and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer (2000).

 

However, when Gygax wrote that World of Greyhawk was “Volume III”, he was imagining a larger world. At various times Frank Mentzer, Len Lakofka, and Francois Marcela-Froideval were each going to create one or more continents east of Oerik, while an Asian-influenced continent was planned for the west. Gygax imagined that there would eventually be “a real globe”.

 

Though the lands depicted in World of Greyhawk have been detailed in the years since its publication, there has been almost no expansion beyond these lands of eastern Oerik — with the one major exception being the Sundered Empire that Chris Pramas designed for the Chainmail Miniatures Game (2001), which lies in western Oerik.

Translation: Gary Gygax lost control of TSR, and the resultant product mangers there, and then at Wizards, fucked it up. They lost sight of the Great Greyhawk Magic Number. In their attempt to broaden appeal, they pulled the rug from the setting. Rather than expand it along Gygax’s original vision for MOHR GREYHAWK, they did something—else.

Ignoring the Liberty of Imagination

Looking at From the Ashes and Greyhawk Wars though Shannon’s historical product sleuthing lens it becomes clear how TSR went to shit and had to be bought out by Wizards of the Coast.

These are not bad products. From the Ashes spurred on some good stuff: Iuz the Evil and The Marklands, the unofficial released Ivid the Undying However, taken as a whole, it took the idea that a published campaign world is a imagination engine for the GM and tossed it in the trash.

And how did they do that? Instead of adhering to that grand vision of globe description, TSR simply advanced the clock. Instead of this:

However, when Gygax wrote that World of Greyhawk was “Volume III”, he was imagining a larger world. At various times Frank Mentzer, Len Lakofka, and Francois Marcela-Froideval were each going to create one or more continents east of Oerik, while an Asian-influenced continent was planned for the west. Gygax imagined that there would eventually be “a real globe”.

They went:

Tick.

The Tick of (reverb) DOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM (reverb) !

Welcome to Someone Else’s Campaign

TSR advanced the Greyhawk campaign clock.

And they were doing so well.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know Gary Gygax would write in Dragon Magazine about current events in Greyhawk. I read them. In my subscription to Dragon Mag. That’s not the sheer folly I’m talking about. That’s a convo between DMs about campaigns.

What I’m talking about is much deeper—changing the underlying foundation of a product’s primary attribute, in this case, turning the DMs Imagination Crank to ELEVENTY.

I met this guy at GenCon. We were chatting and he said he used to dream about Greyhawk. Do you think we as talking about From the Ashes? No, he was talking about the world presented in the box set. He was talking about the Darlene maps. He was talking about a dungeon he built on the Wild Coast the Prince of Ulek sent the PCs to explore. He talked about how in the Temple of Elemental Evil, his players rescued Thrommel and united Veluna and Furyondy. He was talking about his campaign.

And as soon as TSR ticked the clock on him, it was someone else’s campaign.

I played in Living Greyhawk and Living Blackmoor, and they were the ultimate in playing in someone else’s campaign—but that was all on purpose. That was the intent. I decided this style of play wasn’t for me, but it made me think mighty long about what happened to Greyhawk.

TSR would repeat the follow of ticking the clock on campaign worlds with the justification that to increment editions they needed some campaign world shake up.

And it never worked, because it never could work—the whole concept of a campaign world is one grand campaign world for heroic wish fulfillment with players and a GM united in a glorious fantasy setting tailored to their needs and unique to their experiences. Action is character. A PCs real character history starts at Level 1. They change their world.

The Great Greyhawk Magic Number

The Great Greyhawk Magic Number is 576. That’s where the campaign guide ends its timeline. That’s when most DMs started their campaigns. And the entire campaign world is predicated on that one tiny number. 576. And it went like this:

The Prince’s disappearance destroyed these plans, however, and brought about the current state of affairs in the Flanaess, which is confused indeed. Humankind is fragmented into isolationist realms, indifferent nations, evil lands, and states striving for good. The Baklunish countries in the northwest have grown in power. Nomads, bandits, and barbarians raid southward every spring and summer. Humanoid enclaves are strongly established and scattered throughout the continent, and wicked insanity rules in the Great Kingdom. The eventual result of all this cannot be foretold.

Much has been written and said about the fall of TSR into the hands of Wizards. Sure, the Blume Brothers and Williams fucked it up. That’s the why.

The how is they didn’t understand the players and the DMs. They didn’t understand their customers and even what made their own earlier products outstanding achievements of creativity and the imagination. The sheer magnitude of how useful Greyhawk was to a DM. How some people would dream about that world.

And they went tick.

Griffon Lore Games Campaign Worlds

Our super module Curse of the Lost Memories is part of the Chronicles of the Celestial Chains Adventure Path. The AP is designed to plug-and-play into your own world (pick an undeveloped temperate place on your map and change the names to protect the guilty). We have a campaign world for the GM to use for a fresh start at something new and what we hope is wondrously hard fantasy. We have a stretch goal for Curse of the Lost Memories to furnish 100+ pages of it as The Kingdom of Lothmar Setting Guide.

Lothmar is just a part of the overall campaign world that we’ll put into its own Kickstarter once we’ve gotten into the rhythm of shipping modules on the Chronicles of the Celestial Chains Adventure Path. And we plan to have the best campaign world on the market.

This is what you get when you back our Kickstarter—you get lead designers who understand 576. Back our upcoming Kickstarter to the hilt, because we’ve got plans and products and none of our shenanigans includes a number past The Great Greyhawk Magic Number of 576.

Best Regards,
Anthony

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Kickstarter or Die

Kickstarter is an ecosystem of funding, creativity and merchandise. It is a distinctive storefront just like any other where customers spend their hard-earned dollars on goods, usually intellectual property-focused goods.

And that’s where we depart any comparisons between Kickstarter and say, Amazon’s bookstore. Kickstarter is the reverse of Amazon: projects are funded ahead of time from backers, and then produced and delivered.

On my personal account, I’ve backed 22 projects. 23 if you include my Griffon Lore Games account. These are projects were I made a determination of what I wanted vs. the risk of help funding the project and whipped out the credit card, putting my money where my mouth is.

(we won’t talk about what I’ve spent on Amazon, heh, heh, heh (sob))

And they’ve all delivered, or are going to deliver. Every single one. And I’ve been super happy with most of them; there is only one project where I did not like the results, and another project that I found annoyingly super late.

So as a backer you will find me an enthusiastic supporter of Kickstarter. My experience with crowdfunding has been overwhelmingly positive.

But that’s only part of the reason Christophe and I are turning to Kickstarter for Griffon Lore Games’s Curse of the Lost Memories. As a designers, writers and producers, crowdfunding has a lot going for it:

Community: This is our number one reason to go with Kickstarter. Once someone funds it, Kickstarter has an update and commentary system to engage with your customers. That other campaigns don’t use this built-in community to provide weekly updates, foster backer-to-backer discussion, solicit feedback and engagement is maddening. During the campaign the project has the benefits of getting everything right before it ends. After the campaign, the community is brought together for a common purpose. It’s glorious.

Delivery Street Cred: Delivering a backed provides product delivery street cred for your product beyond what a successful, traditionally funded marketing campaign can provide.

Successful funding interjects more than cash, it interjects lifeblood via backers voting with their dollars.

Delivering a quality product increases your street cred.

Delivering a quality product on time is Maximum Kickstarter Street Cred.

Delayed Gratification: I don’t see this talked about hardly at all, but its super-duper-mega-relevant. Kickstarter is one great big delayed gratification mechanism. It is the opposite of rampant abject consumerism. Crowdfunding takes many of the things wrong with materialism in modern culture and tosses them into the wood chipper. Backers watch the video, read the story, look at the rewards, visit the websites, asks questions, then fund a project—and wait. That’s amazing. Don’t take my word for the superior world of delayed gratification. Hearken ye to the interweb tubes and read about all the positive results from resisting instant temptation for an often superior, worthwhile and enriching experience.

Christophe and I are absolutely confident we can deliver a product that is on-par, or superior, to any role-playing product coming out of the big names today. And crowdfunding is the way to do it.

What’s your take on Kickstarter? Comment below.

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Hello 2018!

Wow!

I’m taking a break from video production for the Kickstarter to say hello!

We’re making steady progress after launching our Facebook Page. Be sure to Like and Follow the page. While Facebook isn’t the best place to stay informed (Facebook arbitrarily decides when and where to show updates to pages), it’s a good place to meet other Griffon Lore Games enthusiasts.

So let’s talk about updates. Where’s the best place to get information about Griffon Lore Games happenings? We’ll my friends, we got you covered:

This website. The website kinda kicks ass, doesn’t it? We’re using WordPress and WordPress has a ton of reader friendly features:

Subscribe to the website via WordPress. Over on the right, just input your email address and press Subscribe. You’ll get all the blog posts in email.

Add the website via an RSS reader. Just add “https://www.griffonloregames.com/updates/” as the feed.

Our YouTube Channel. Subscribe to the channel for video updates. We’re video-friendly, so be sure to subscribe to our channel via YouTube even if you watch the videos from this website.

Our Facebook page. Facebook is convenient. However, it’s hit or miss if Facebook shows you the update unless you go to the page directly. Adding the website to an RSS Reader or, visiting on a regular basis or signing up for blog updates is always the better bet!

Our Kickstarter! When the Kickstarter is live, pledging any amount will get you project updates. We’ll cross-post them here, too, but Kickstarter also has a comment page for campaigns that we will be using religiously.

Our email newsletter: Once a month we’ll send out a summary of content and products.

Okay, that’a a lot of places to get information and interact with us, ha.

This blog will not be a place to only pimp our products. You’ll be getting articles about D&D, Pathfinder, RPGs and the occasional video game. This website is our community owned exclusively by us and for our customers. It’s not a social media platform that tells your when and what to think by restricting or obfuscating information based on algorithms that don’t have your interests as a priority. Given enough interest, we’ll have a forum, independently run and moderated with your interests in mind.

Hold on to yer butts, we’re just getting started!

 

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In Progress And Next Steps

This website is still in draft form! We’ve given the URL out to a few people. For those of you with access to it, here’s what we are in the progress of doing:

Website
  • We’re going to change “About” page to “Team” and start linking to our partners (cartography, artists, graphic designers, etc.)
  • Branded hero banner for the first page
Facebook
  • Branded header banner
  • FB launch
Newsletter
  • Mailchimp signup
Written Content Production
  • This is always going full-steam ahead. We’ll always be running ahead of everything with written content production. It’s the content Christophe and I are producing.

Question of the Day: When are you launching the Kickstarter?

The answer is—when we have a suitable number of followers and interest. The best way to launch a Kickstarter is to launch one whereby backers are standing by to back and thus making “fully-funded” a matter of timing rather a matter of ongoing Kickstarter campaign execution. We have some exciting and awesome stretch goals. We’d rather be spending more time campaigning the stretch goals than trying to obtain some grandiose funding target.

Here at Griffon Lore Games, we’re enthusiastic believers of crowed funding, having funding many things ourselves. We’re big fans of letting people vote with their wallet, as that is what we do when we participate in Kickstarter campaigns as backers.

As always, let us know your thoughts or questions.

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Curse of the Lost Memories

We are announcing our new adventure: Curse of the Lost Memories!

Curse of the Lost Memories is the first volume of Chronicles of the Celestial Chains adventure path. It is set in hard fantasy setting, a ruthless environment with successful villains, detailed political setting, and tough consequences for our heroes’ mistakes.

The player characters have memories that are seemingly not their own—visions of the past that don’t feel like visions, some lingering while others vanishing as if hiding from something dark. The external threat coming from the local moors is only part of fight the PCs find themselves in. This isn’t simply a mission for the local Viscount to clean out a moor of monsters. This is a war for their very identities and they must stand together or perish all.

The 100+ page adventure is setting agnostic, but with original locations and written for both Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition as well as the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The module will take characters from level 1 to level 4 and brings them through four narrative acts of a story arc, yielding 12-15 sessions of play.

Curse of the Lost Memories is a uniquely DM-friendly module that encourages role-playing even when players don’t normally do so. The inhabitants of the land the PCs interact with fleshed out with their own motivations for the DM to use or modify, every location mapped carefully to provide a rich background of detail that when the DM starts to wing it, he or she has a solid foundation. The encounters are challenging and impactful, and many will leave players with a sense of accomplishment and sense of heroic wonder that will linger with them until the next play session.

Curse of the Lost Memories and the campaign world it is not an MMO on paper with a formulaic progression. It’s table-top D&D with 100+ pages of pure campaign role-playing goodness that walks the fine line of giving the DM directions to take the adventure to its conclusion and support when the adventure goes off the rails.

WE WILL LAUNCH ON KICKSTARTER SOON!

We want to deliver you a high-quality product with encounter maps, area cartography, pre-generated PCs, interior artwork and well-tested encounters in a bold, engaging style. Offered both as a hardcover and PDFs, Curse of the Lost Memories is the first mega-module in an adventure path taking the player characters from levels 1 to 20.

Please let us know if you have any questions! 🙂

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