Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Nortonian Greyhawk Part I: Slogging through the quagmire so you don't have to

Lichis the Golden does not give a f**k
Back when Sir Allan Grodog posted his cool old time map of Olde Tyme Greyhawk several years ago my first thought was "huh, I wonder if this is the same map that Andre Norton used as the setting for Quag Keep?" Sure, Zenopus Archives pursued the same question here, but that didn't stop me from tracking down a copy of the 'Keep and giving it the stink eye yet again; this time with my academic cap firmly clapped on the ol' noggin'.*

For those of you unaware, back in the 70s famed fantasy author Andre Norton wrote a novel--the aforementioned Quag Keep--set in the world of Greyhawk. No map was included in the book, but it was quickly obvious that the world of Greyhawk presented by Norton differed greatly from the version Gygax published a few years later and, thus, Greyhawk enthusiasts such as yours truly have ignored it as a source of campaign information or inspiration ever since.

It also didn't help that the book just isn't a very compelling read. It's never clear what, if anything, is at stake, the villains are as disparate and disorganized as your typical wandering monster table might provide, and, although the adventurers do end up in a quag, there's no actual keep involved--this was a huge disappointment to me as a youth. Generally, the book feels a lot like one of those desultory gaming sessions where the DM sets you on some vague errand and throws a bunch of random encounters at you mostly because he hasn't got a proper adventure prepared for the evening. 

Anyway, the answer to my question up in the intro is that Norton's Greyhawk is a lot closer to the old Greyhawk map than the published version, including mention of features such as The Great Bay, The Island Duchy of Maritiz, and the Holy Lords of Faraz which were not in the final published version. And she may or may not have been taking license with such locales as the Hither Hills, the Nomads of Narm, and the Free Ships of Parth; all evocative names that may or may not have existed in Gygax's own version at the time.

Things you might be surprised to learn about Nortonian Greyhawk:
  1. Rather than Xagyg, some Wizard named Kyrak operates a madness-inducing stronghold just outside of the city of Greyhawk.
  2. There is no evidence to suggest the existence of the Nyr Dyv or any other large body of water in the environs of Greyhawk
  3. Directly south of Greyhawk is the Land of Keo, an unpopulated land of dry, open plains
  4. This land played host to a horrifying event known as "the Rieving of Keo the Less" wherein a clan of amazon warriors from the Northern Bands were slaughtered... or worse.
  5. The Great Kingdom and Blackmoor have been conflated into a single entity: The Great Kingdom of Blackmoor
  6. It is not known who built the 5 cities of the Great Kingdom, suggesting a civilization existed there long before the Overlord overlorded the place.
  7. The Holy Lords of Faraz--Possibly the precursor to those Cuthbert worshiping Velunians?--use cross shaped currency. 
  8. Lichis, a giant Gold dragon, took on and defeated The Great Demon Ironnose in a legendary battle that spanned half the continent.
  9. It's not too many steps, phonetically speaking, from "Ironnose" to "Iuz" right? Just drop the two n's and your pretty much there.
  10. There was once a civilization that lived on the Sea of Dust, traversing the shifting dunes on sailing vessels. Like a cross between Road Warrior and Waterworld.
  11. There is both a Pinnacle of the Toad and a Temple of the Frog
Coming up in Part II: I try to draw a map of what Nortonian Greyhawk might look like! Stay tuned.
* I have no academic credentials other than having attended college for more time than anyone reasonably should. Also, phrasing such as "clapped on the ol' noggin" suggests that I'm still under the Wodehousian influence brought on by reading The Salt Marsh Murders.