AD&D 2e, Dungeons & Dragons, Greyhawk, Moore_Sargent Greyhawk

The Gritty, Grimy, Self-Serving Greyhawk of the Early 90s

Last night I was reading an older DRAGON magazine that I had picked up recently when I ran across an article, “Part Dragon, All Hero: Half-dragon characters, for the Council of Wyrms setting and beyond,” by Roger E. Moore. The article is fascinating for a number of reasons but what got my attention was the following passage:

Oerth is a more cosmopolitan setting than many, its peoples long accustomed to magical displays and unusual beings in their midst. Individual power, both physical and magical, is respected and sought; the people of the Flanaess are on the whole practical, calculating, materialistic, and prone to looking out for their own interests first. This dark flavor has promoted a certain freedom from bias among its peoples, especially in the City of Greyhawk. One wag has commented that a stranger can be as strange as he wants, so long as he obeys the rules of the game.”

Moore, 24

My first instinct when reading this passage was to note that it was different from the world that I had spent most of my time researching over the years – but then I realized it isn’t all that different. Unlike a lot of other setting the world of Greyhawk is open to some really aggressive displays of power that directly affect the people of the world instead of things that are beyond their control. Think about things like the Sea of Dust, the Sinking Isle, the Tovag Baragu, the fiend armies of Iuz, the demon armies of Sir Kargoth, the smiting of Iuz’s armies by the crook of Rao, the twin cataclysms that destroyed the Baklunish and Suloise empires, and so on. Magic isn’t some far off thing for the peoples of Oerth; it’s an every day fact of life that could decimate their cities and end civilizations.

I’ve got to give this concept a bit more thought going forward but it’s certainly an interesting idea.

Works Cited

Moore, Roger. “Part Dragon, All Hero: Half-dragon characters, for the Council of Wyrms setting and beyond.” DRAGON Magazine #206. TSR, Inc. June, 1994. pg. 24


1 thought on “The Gritty, Grimy, Self-Serving Greyhawk of the Early 90s”

  1. My experience with Greyhawk is extremely new and extremely limited (so much of what I’m saying might lean way more into ‘personal interpretation’ than ‘spelled out in the text’), but I’ve gotten a similar impression. I’ve sorta assumed that this was the big reason for forming the Citadel/Circle of Eight in the first place – recognizing that Oerth nations sometimes have a capacity to go way into magical overkill, if given the chance.
    I mean, while the Suel and Baklunish empires are definitely treated as ‘lost golden ages’, I’ll note that-
    1)There’s been a lot of impressive magic in the post-Zagig years of the Flanaess.
    2)Quick calculations show that it’s been, oh, roughly 1000 years since the empires destroyed each other, and that’s the kind of magical cataclysm anniversary that tends to make people nervous.
    And to this, you can add in the fact that, before the Flan were the quaint hunter-gatherers everyone else stepped on, they had multiple nations run by power-mad feuding necromantic prodigies. Kinda creates the impression of a cycle of magical build-ups that don’t end well.


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