Greyhawk, also known as the World of Greyhawk, is a campaign setting for the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy roleplaying game (D&D). The World of Greyhawk includes the Free City of Greyhawk, from which the setting's name was taken. As one of the earliest D&D campaign settings, many of the rules for the game itself were developed in conjunction with game play by Gary Gygax and others in and around Castle Greyhawk and its dungeons.
While constructing the milieu, Gygax also incorporated the campaign worlds of his fellow role-players, such as Blackmoor (Dave Arneson's campaign) and the Lendore Isles (a region created by long-time stalwart Len Lakofka).
Historically, direct links between the core D&D rules and any particular campaign setting have been limited. Through all editions of the game however, Greyhawk has had a strong influence over the core rules, such as serving as the source for names of many well-known spells and magic items. The "Core Setting" of 3rd Edition D&D was largely based on Greyhawk, and its default pantheon of deities was largely taken from Greyhawk. The 3.5 edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide pays visual tribute to Greyhawk's influence on the game, featuring on its cover a small map of the continent of Oerik etched onto a globe.
In the Greyhawk setting, the planet Oerth has four continents. Only one of these continents, Oerik, has been officially described in various D&D publications over the past 30+ years, and in fact detailed information is available only for its eastern end, known as the Flanaess.
Although home D&D campaigns can be set in or around the Free City of Greyhawk itself, there are no restrictions with respect to time period or location. The Flanaess can be broken down geographically as follows: the Baklunish Basin in the northwest, the Empire of Iuz in the north, the Thillonrian Peninsula in the northeast, the Sea of Dust in the far west, the Sheldomar Valley in the west, old Ferrond and its southern frontier (including the City of Greyhawk) at the center of the Flanaess, old Sulm and the Aerdy frontier to the east, the old Great Kingdom to the far east, and the Amedio Jungle to the southwest.
Certain elements of Greyhawk's geography are fantastic in nature, such as the Sea of Dust and the Land of Black Ice. Other elements are more closely analogous to real-world Europe, such as the Thillonrian Peninsula's geographical resemblance to Scandinavia.
The Flanaess is home to Oerth's "enlightened humanity," and much of the flavor of the Greyhawk setting arises from the interplay of the various "sub-races" of humanity — Baklunish, Flannae, Oeridians, Olman, Rhennee, Suloise, and Touv in particular — as they have criss-crossed the Flanaess over the last millennium. The setting's fans have debated the exact nature of these sub-races (and their real world analogues, if any) over the years, but key distinguishing features include antagonism between the Bakluni and Suloise (and the ancient war that nearly annihilated them both), the relative primitiveness of the indigenous Flan, and the Oerdians' military conquest of much of the Flanaess.
Various fantasy races also populate the Flanaess, sometimes acting as allies to humanity in the same vein as J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth. Elves and dwarves of different sorts even have powerful strongholds and nations, with gnomes and halflings living in smaller pockets near friendly (and more powerful) neighbors. Even where these races are politically advanced, such as in Celene or the Ulek States, isolationist policies often limit their power to the regions they inhabit. Wicked drow elves often plot mischief against the free world, with other nefarious creatures such as orcs, ogres, giants, and dragons acting as all-purpose enemies. When viewed as a whole, however, the Flanaess appears anthropocentric (or more specifically, humanocentric) despite the presence of so many fantastic species.
Corellon Larethian - Patron deity of the Elves, the neutral good Corellon Larethian presides and protects the interests of the elf people. He has a hand in all that the elves hold dear, poetry, magic, arts, crafts and warfare. He is known as the Creator, Protector, Protector and Preserver of Life among other titles. His domains are Chaos, Good, Protection, and War. His favored weapon is the longsword.
Ehlonna - Goddess of the woodlands, Ehlonna is neutral good in alignment. She has dominion over all those that dwell in, or make their living in the woods. She has a particular affinity with those predominantly good races whom dwell in the woods, such as elves, half-elves, halflings and gnomes. She also counts rangers and some druids among her faithful. Her domains include Animals, Good, Plant and Sun.
Erythnul - The god of Slaughter, he is known as the Many and delights in the deaths of the innocent and the brutal murder of sentient races. When manifest on the material plane he is a hulking monstrous humanoid, usually a bugbear with a hollowed stone-headed morning star that emits a piercing howl when swung. In civilized lands his worship is outlawed, thus small criminal cults are formed among his faithful. In more feral areas he can, and often does rise to be the primary deity of worship, especially among bugbears, trolls and ogres. His domains include Chaos, Evil, Trickery and War. His favored weapon is a morning star with a stone head.
Fharlanghn - God of the roads and travel, Fharlanghn is a neutral deity. His portfolio contains all that which deals with overland travel, including roads and those that travel them. Bards and merchants are counted among his faithful, praying for safe passage of themselves and their goods. His domains are Luck, Protection and Travel. His favored weapon is the quarterstaff.
Garl Glittergold - Patron deity of the gnomes, Garl Glittergold is a jovial and inquisitive god like his people. Legend has it he discovered the gnomish people, and ever since has committed to their protection and prosperity. He governs wit, humor, gem cutting and prospecting, all things that gnomes hold dear. His domains are Good, Protection and Trickery. His favored weapon is the battleaxe.
Gruumsh - God of the feral orcs, Gruumsh is naturally a chaotic evil deity. Among his more grandiose of titles are One-Eye and He-Who-Never-Sleeps. Gruumsh is concerned with culling the weak and taking that which is believed to be rightfully his, and his people's (which includes mostly everything) and the active undermining and destruction of his sworn enemy, Corellion Larethian, who was responsible for his cyclopean visage. His domains are Chaos, Evil, Strength and War. His favored weapon is the spear.
Heironeous - God of valor and chivalry, Heironeous is naturally lawful good in alignment. His title is simply the Invincible. Worshiped by all those that are honorable and martial in nature with aspirations of good he counts paladins, good monks and good fighters among his faithful. Hextor is his sworn enemy, and half-brother. Heironeous' domains are Good, Law, and War.
Hextor - Lawful evil in nature, Hextor is the deity of oppression and tyranny. Devoted to the subjugation of all peoples under his iron fist Hextor is known as the Champion of Evil, Herald of Hell and the Scourge of Battle among other titles. In appearance Hextor is a six armed warrior. His domains are Destruction, Evil, Law, and War. His favored weapon is the flail.
Kord - The god of strength and athletes, Kord is chaotic good in alignment. Kord holds all those that value physical strength among his faithful, including good fighters, barbarians and rogues. His domains are Chaos, Good, Luck, and Strength. His favored weapon is the greatsword.
Moradin - Patron deity of the dwarves. There is no wonder why he is lawful good in nature. Making the first dwarf out of metal and gems Moradin is known as the Soul-Forger, All-Father, and the Creator. Moradin takes a hand in all the aspirations of dwarves, including metalworking, gemcutting, warfare and engineering. The domains associated with Moradin are Earth, Good, Protection and Law.
Saint Cuthbert (of the Cudgel) - The deity of Retribution and Justice. Technically Lawful Neutral, he edges to the Lawful Good side of the alignment spectrum, since evildoers tend to break laws heedlessly. Unlike the other gods of Greyhawk, Saint Cuthbert is a risen mortal, though his ascension took place in the misty and unknown dawn of history. Very popular god among the common citizens of the Flanaess.
Beginning in Dragon #30 (October 1979), Gygax began writing a periodic column called "From the Sorcerer's Scroll." This series provided additional background for the Greyhawk setting, focusing on the politics of various countries, the individuals who lived there, and other things which brought life to his world.
Between 1978 and 1987, TSR published approximately 30 adventure modules set in the World of Greyhawk. These included three major Greyhawk campaigns, with the Temple of Elemental Evil series (T1-4) being the best known. The Village of Hommlet began players at first level, with successive adventures of increasing difficulty eventually culminating within the temple itself. This campaign would later provide the inspiration for the 2003 Atari PC video game The Temple of Elemental Evil.
Another favorite campaign, the Slave Lords series, developed out of tournament role-playing games centering around the Slave Lords, a powerful band of pirates and slavers preying upon the Wild Coast. Gygax's own "GDQ" series brought high-level adventurers against bands of ruthless giants, vile underground kuo-toa, and the drow themselves, ending with a confrontation with the Spider Queen, Lolth. All three series have been repackaged as super-modules, while the original folders are prized among collectors.
Other notable offerings include the 1988 Greyhawk Adventures hardback book and The City of Greyhawk boxed set from 1989, which expanded on the detail available for the city for the second edition D&D rules, supplementing the World of Greyhawk boxed set.
While the World of Greyhawk is primarily serious in its scope, one "joke" module, WG7 - Castle Greyhawk includes many references to 20th-century culture, such as characters named "King Burger" and "General Public," as well as "B-Men" monsters that are half-hornet and half-government agent. Other Greyhawk modules such as Dungeonland and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks borrow themes from Lewis Carroll and science fiction respectively.
This series was soon halted, however, when in 1993 TSR canceled Sargent's sourcebook on the Great Kingdom, Ivid the Undying, prior to publication. However, elements of "Ivid" leaked to the public and were likely responsible for renewing interest in the setting. As the popularity of the internet exploded in 1994-1995, fans of Greyhawk began to “meet” and organize through the various online service providers. The two most well-known being the America Online-centric "Council of Greyhawk and the list serve "Greytalk." Both are still active today.
Since Wizards of the Coast (WotC) purchased TSR and the Dungeons & Dragons franchise, they have focused mainly on the Forgotten Realms and Eberron campaign settings. In 1998, however, an attempt was made to revive the World of Greyhawk with the release of Greyhawk: The Adventure Begins sourcebook. This publication advanced the timeline of the World of Greyhawk by six years. The Adventure Begins was followed up by a series of modules and sourcebooks that included The Player's Guide to Greyhawk, The Scarlet Brotherhood and others that detailed sites close to the Free City of Greyhawk.
In addition, between 1998 and 2002 WotC released several adventures and novels linked to some of the earliest and most popular Greyhawk modules. The new adventures included Return to the Tomb of Horrors, Slavers (linked to the original Slave Lords series), Return to the Keep on the Borderlands, Against the Giants: The Liberation of Geoff, Return to White Plume Mountain, and Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. (See below for a list of the novels of this period). The relaunch failed to sufficiently revive the World of Greyhawk's commercial fortunes and the series was discontinued.
From 2001 to 2007, the primary sources of official Greyhawk-specific materials therefore were articles in Dungeon magazine and Dragon magazine. A fair amount of fan fiction is also published. Additionally, since 2000 there have been a limited number of third-party licensed offerings including the aforementioned Atari PC computer game and comic books from Kenzer & Company and Iron Hammer Graphics.
In August 2007, Wizards of the Coast released Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, a "super-adventure" set in and around Castle Greyhawk and its dungeons. With the exception of Living Greyhawk-related materials and a handful of module updates on the WotC website, the book was the first official Greyhawk material released since 2002.
Spurred on in particular by the success of the Dragonlance novels during the mid 1980s, two separate Greyhawk series appeared, penned by Rose Estes and Gary Gygax himself. The latter author's more popular series, beginning with Saga of Old City and The Artifact of Evil, focuses on Gord, a rogue from Greyhawk. After leaving TSR, Inc. for personal reasons in 1986, Gary Gygax continued the Gord series with an independent publisher for a number of years.
Estes took over the TSR series at this point, introducing new characters and going in a different direction than Gygax's independent series. Estes' novels were not completely consistent with the game rules in force at the time, featuring such disallowed combinations as dwarven wizards. The Estes novels also diverged from the setting storyline presented in adventure modules and game sourcebooks. For example, Iuz is slain early on in the Estes series of novels, whereas he remains a primary political force in other TSR products from the period such as Howl from the North and Greyhawk Wars. The last of Estes' Greyhawk books was published in 1989, and the series was put on a decade-long hiatus.
After Wizards of the Coast acquired TSR, the company published seven new novels between 1999 and 2002 under the "Greyhawk Classics" product line. Written by various authors, these books were novelizations of classic Greyhawk adventures from the late 1970's and early 1980's.
Currently, the World of Greyhawk is the basis for the "core setting" for WotC published Dungeons & Dragons. "Core setting" materials that subtly include Greyhawk history have proved popular and Wizards of the Coast continues to produce books in that vein. For example the first of their Fiendish Codex Series, Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, tangentially refers to some of the history of the interaction and conflict between the World of Greyhawk and the abyssal planes and the demons and demon princes that populate them. From the standpoint of WotC publications Greyhawk is 'frozen' at the point the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer was published and there have been no announcements or products that advance the timeline of the setting.
Greyhawk remains popular with gamers. Other D&D campaign worlds have borrowed numerous ideas from Greyhawk; however the setting retains a unique flavor that hews closest to the motifs and themes that dominated the early days of the games as well as a huge assortment of gods and mortals developed over the decades that the setting has existed. The continued popularity of Dungeon magazine adventures set in Greyhawk attest to its longevity.
For example, Adventure Paths, published by Dungeon magazine starting in 2004 are set in the world of Greyhawk by default, and have begun to build a new, but only marginally official chapter in the history of the setting. These campaigns are published as 11-12 individual adventures in Dungeon, the first of which, Shackled City, has been collected as a single book. The adventures have focused on the less developed regions of the Flanaess, but have included a number of well-known items and personalities from the history of Greyhawk (especially in the second Adventure Path, Age of Worms).
In Dungeon's sister publication, Dragon, there are two ongoing series that contain Greyhawk setting information. The first is Demonomicon of Iggwilv which details the demon lords of the setting's Abyss. The second is Core Beliefs which details the deities of the core setting, but includes many details that are Greyhawk-specific.
Wizards of the Coast's RPGA organization also features Greyhawk as its most popular living campaign setting, known as Living Greyhawk. The Living Greyhawk campaign is far more popular than those from other WotC campaign settings.
Some ideas that originated in Greyhawk but have since spread to other settings include the drow elves who first appeared as villains in several modules set on Oerth, whilst the deities of Greyhawk have become default gods and goddesses in Wizards of the Coast's third edition version of Dungeons & Dragons.