I periodically stare at the pile of RPG books under the bed, rueful and puzzled that there seems to be absolutely not one single useful new idea in the whole stack.
Then I go "Oh that can't be true!" and I pick one up, and it tells me that Readyr'eat is the name of a month in Autumn and I shriek like Linda Blair and then I die.
But today I will be perverse and brave: I am going to actually try to read a published D&D product all the way through.
This will be no ordinary Let's Read snarkfest though. I am actually going to try to extract useful game stuff as I go. If I find a good idea, I'll make it big and you'll read about it here--I am reading this so you don't have to. We'll see how that goes.
And then, if you're very good and I've got nothing better to do--I'll rewrite the thing with only the good ideas.
For this exercise I've pulled this off the shelf:
Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk is a 3rd edition expanded and WOTCfied version of the TSR dungeon Greyhawk Ruins which was, in its turn, a D&D 2nd edition attempt to describe what was under the original D&D dungeon, Gary Gygax's Castle Greyhawk.
Which is to say, it is a 3rd generation telephone game attempt to recreate the primal ur dungeon that never saw print, which is some kind of metaphor for something I guess. We'll either get three layers of ideas or three layers of things to make fun of.
Plus, grognards in the cheap seats, free to angrily chuck fish parts and Greyhawk lore at me from the balcony. There will be many opportunities for it.
I'm drunk! Let's go...
On the cover: Michael Komarck goves us a strikingly photorealistic depiction of the model who posed for the photo reference for Michael Komarck's cover. His earrings are asymmetrical.
Introduction: In a place north of a place lies a dungeon wherewithin is stuff built by a guy. He isn't there any more.
Castle Greyhawk Birthplace of Adventure: Ok, so...(forgive me I'm only 4 paragraphs in and it's already like reading the plot of nine Marvel summer crossovers mashed together)...so there's all these guys whose names are D&D spells and also, coincidentally anagrams of Gary Gygax's original players aaaaand...they're old now and there's a bad guy who wants to kill them. I think that's the size of it.
Then it tells us what's coming up...
I. The Free City of Greyhawk This is where there'll be an inn and thieves and all that.
II. The Castle And The Dungeons What it says on the tin. One hopes.
III. The Tower of War When the PCs finally
arrive at the gates of Castle Greyhawk, they find that
the only way inside is through the front gates of Zagig’s
Tower of War... This used to be the crazy wizard's armory. If I remember correctly from Greyhawk Ruins it's a pointless funhouse of crazy wizard trouble with some kind of cheap humanoids occasionally realizing you're there. The description here seems to reinforce that it'll be that plus some bonus railroading.
IV. City of Hawks City of Thieves To get further in the dungeon, you go back to the City, ride a railroad to a bossfight and get a key.
V. Wrath of the Old One Return to dungeon, learn about plot, get attacked by demigod.
VI. In Zagig's Shadow More plot, tri-force hunt, conclusion.
Then the major NPCs are introduced...
Zagig (aka Zagyg): Crazy wizard. Imprisoned 9 demigods in his dungeon.
Iuz: Race: Part-demon. Class: Bastard. Level: Dark Lord. "Those who rebelled or refused to submit to his will were ruthlessly slain, their skulls placed
along a bloody three-hundred-mile road..." (That's especially good if they're not on pikes or anything, just lined up next to each other like shoes at the swimming pool for miles and miles and miles. Think of all the adventure hooks in those skulls. Every single person who stood against the dark lord. Plus, like, they knew if they died their skulls would be placed on the road, so some of them probably, being self-sacrificing good-guy types, encoded weapons, schemes, codes and spells against evil in their skulls.) Caught. Placed in the castle/dungeon. Then released by an adventurer, then set up his evil kingdom again. Had a fight, treaty. Still plotting revenge.
Zuoken: Legendary monk. Also captured by Zagig. A cult still seeks to free him. (If you're going to have 9 demigods trapped in your dungeon, having various interested parties trying to free each one for their own purposes is a good way to generate drama on the cheap.)
Vayne: Lieutenant of Iuz. Convinced Iuz to use an underground tunnel from their army's current location to the dungeon and then to the City of Greyhawk itself which apparently has some mcguffin Iuz wants. However, now that Vayne's actually in the dungeon and getting a look at all the magic stuffs in it, he's considering going all Starscream on his boss. He also keeps a fake version of his boss's mom around for reasons which I'm sure will become clear later.
Iggwilv: Iuz's mom. Her prisoner/lover was a demon prince. Trapped elsewhere. Inexplicably duplicated by Vayne.
Mordenkainen: Ok, here's what I know about Mordenkainen--whereas "Zagyg" was the name of the wizard Gary Gygax invented to explain Castle Greyhawk, "Mordenkainen" was the name of Gary's actual main wizard PC he used to play games with. As for the official bio given here in the module: I just read a tax code worth of text and am no wiser. 1- He's a wizard and 2- he tricked his friend into freeing Iuz for some dumb reason. That's all I got.
The real story is more interesting. )
Aaaaaand that's the first part.
For those keeping score at home....
Good ideas: 5
Next time: Chapter 1--The City of Greyhawk
OSR: 1d50 Goblin Warlords
3 hours ago