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Tabletop Game / Greyhawk

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One of the earliest and most archetypal Dungeons & Dragons settings... your basic Medieval European Fantasy. Originally developed by co-founder Gary Gygax by amalgamating his and his friends' campaign worlds, it's often thought of as the "default", and has been used to flavor the core edition rulebooks more than once.

The setting is named after the great Free City of Greyhawk, a sprawling metropolis of wizards and thieves located next to the legendary dungeon of Castle Greyhawk. These locations are at the heart of "the Flanaess" — the northeast end of Oerik, the largest continent on the world of Oerth. Ravaged by centuries of warfare, contested by dozens of races and organizations, the Flanaess is crawling with monsters to slay, ruins to loot, and vile magicians to foil. A very generic Heroic Fantasy or Swords and Sorcery setting, but one which suits the game's needs perfectly. In the Planescape and Spelljammer settings, the world of Greyhawk is part of a larger universe that also includes Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms.


Greyhawk was published as an optional supplement, Supplement 1: GREYHAWK, by Gary Gygax and Robert J. Kuntz, in 1975. Unlike later setting material, Supplement 1: GREYHAWK focused on optional rules as opposed to towns, monsters, etc. The rules introduced for Greyhawk evolved into Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, and Greyhawk has remained an influence on the core setting ever since. Numerous setting supplements, magazine articles, and adventure booklets have been released, including The Temple of Elemental Evil and Tomb of Horrors.

There have been several Greyhawk novels, but the line never reached the same level of success as D&D's Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms franchises. Perhaps the most notable was the "Gord the Rogue" series by Gary Gygax, the tales of a dashing burglar from the City of Greyhawk.


Greyhawk has not been the default setting since the 3rd edition of D&D, which borrowed much of Greyhawk's lore and its more prominent deities but otherwise presented itself as a generic setting. It did not appear at all in 4th edition, but the 5th edition still includes material that was once associated with Greyhawk, such as a list of Greyhawk deities for the Cleric class. The setting seems to have inspired some of the fifth edition's "look and feel", such as its treatment of the Paladin class and the Beholder and Dark Elf races.

Works that are set in Greyhawk includes:

  • Aerie of the Slavelords adventure series
    • A0: Darkness at Darkshelf Quarry
    • A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity
    • A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade
    • A3 Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords
    • A4 In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords
  • Against the Cult of the Reptile God
  • Dungeonland
  • Dwellers of the Forbidden City
  • The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun
  • The Greyhawk Sequence:
    • The Temple of Elemental Evil
    • Scourge of the Slave Lords (compilation of Aerie of the Slave Lords'' revised for higher levels)
    • Queen of the Spiders
      • Giants adventure series
      • G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief
      • G2 Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl
      • G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King
      • Drow adventure series
      • D1 Descent into the Depths of the Earth
      • D2 Shrine of the Kuo-Toa
      • D3 Vault of the Drow
      • Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits
  • Ghosts of Saltmarsh (5th edition remakes of classic adventures)
  • The Ghost Tower of Inverness
  • The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  • Isle of the Ape
  • The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror
  • Lendore/Spindrift Isles adventure series — only three of the five planned modules were officially released, creator Lenard Lakofka eventually released the last two for free
  • Savage Tide
  • Special adventure series
    • S1 Tomb of Horrors
    • S2 White Plume Mountain
    • S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
    • S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
  • Vecna Trilogy

  • Quag Keep (released in 1978 by Andre Norton) — the first Dungeons & Dragons novel period, set in the original home campaign version of Greyhawk.
    • Return to Quag Keep (released in 2006 by Andre Norton's estate and Jean Rabe) — sequel to Quag Keep, but with the Greyhawk serial numbers taken off.
  • The Gnome Cache (released in issues 1-3 and 5-7 of Dragon magazine by Garrison Ernst, a possible pseudonym or pen name for Gary Gygax) — set in the original home campaign version of Greyhawk.
  • Gord the Rogue (released from 1985 to 1988 by Gary Gygax) — set in the original home campaign version of Greyhawk, which was destroyed in the last novel; the first two novels were part of the Greyhawk Adventures series.
  • Greyhawk Adventures (released from 1987 to 1989 by Rose Estes) — likely set in the second version of Greyhawk, the time frame listed covers the five novels by Rose Estes.
  • Greyhawk Classics (released from 1999 to 2002 by numerous authors) — set in the officially released version of Greyhawk, novelizations of seven classic adventure modules.
  • The Knights of the Silver Dragon (released from 2004 to 2006 by Matt Forbeck) — series of children's books.

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The world of Greyhawk contains examples of the following tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Basically every other country on the planet fears and hates the Empire Of Iuz
  • Alien Episode: The legendary module Expedition to the Barrier Peaks pulls a masterful Bait-and-Switch on the players by setting up a search for the cave where several monsters that have been terrorizing the countryside have come from, only to turn out that the "cave" is actually a spaceship that has crashed a long time ago and is still functional enough that it can deploy Attack Drone and Sentry Gun countermeasures against the intruding heroes.
  • Artifact of Doom: There are several of these, such as the Crook of Rao (good) and the Scorpion Crown (do not touch!).
  • Artifact Title: Gary Gygax's original Greyhawk campaign in the early 1970s was set on a parallel Earth (hence the references in the original Monster Manual to real-life locations such as India, Japan, and Sumatra) and centered on the Great Lakes region of North America. The Free City of Greyhawk was an analog of Chicago, and its name may have been a reference to the Black Hawk War of 1832 that took place nearby. When the setting was revised for commercial release, the existing cities and landmarks were transplanted onto a brand-new map (the Flanaess) along with many others, but some hints of their origins remained; for one example, compare the Nyr Dyv to Lake Superior.
  • "Ass" in Ambassador: After the Greyhawk Wars, part of the peace treaty required the creation of embassies in the city of Greyhawk to try and prevent such a massive disaster in the future by making sure each power bloc or great power had at least the ability to negotiate in good faith with each other at all times. Iuz, being an evil half-fiend demigod with a massively expanded empire thanks to said war, showed his contempt for the whole thing by sending as his representative the worst possible candidate: one of his clerics named Pyremiel Alexane, who looks like a mummified corpse and has a bevy of odious features and behaviors (he has wracking coughs that make him spit out black phlegm, smells terrible from his nonexistent hygiene, picks his claw-like nails in public specifically to gross people out, eats like a pig in a trough, etc...). And to top it off, the guy is a smug, smarmy jerkass toward everybody. In his game stats writeup, he actually has a Charisma stat of 3 (the absolute human minimum in D&D).
  • Author Avatar: Mordenkainen (who you may recognize for being the author of many spells of inconsistent quality) was originally Gary Gygax's player character. Zagyg almost certainly was also an avatar for Gygax. So was Yrag the Lord. Bigby (he of the various "hand" spells) was an NPC henchman played by Gygax.
  • Back from the Dead: After Rary killed him, Tenser was revived through a clone of himself he had hidden away. Of course, this being D&D, there are quite a few ways this can happen.
  • Behemoth Battle: On level 5 of the module WG7 Castle Greyhawk, a Players observe a battle between an Apparatus of Kwalish and an iron golem piloted by an orc. It's an Affectionate Parody of FASA's BattleTech game (the orc is even named "Fahzah").
  • Boisterous Bruiser: A number of them appear, both good and evil: the god Kord encourages the attitude among his faithful, and the noted warrior Lord Robilar has remained one regardless of whichever alignment he happens to have.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Rary of Ket was always seen as the most reserved and soft-spoken member of the Circle of Eight. After years of failures, reflecting that all the Circle's bickering had done was give the forces of evil a chance to launch a world war, he became He Who Fights Monsters and set out to Take Over the World.
  • The Brute: Warduke. Originally a D&D action figure from the '80s, an issue of Dungeon retconned Warduke as the martial champion of the Horned Society (an empire of devil-worshippers). A hulking monster of a man, Warduke is presented as the ultimate physical threat in a non-epic campaign.
    • Sevvord Redbeard, ruler of the Hold of Stonefist and later "Rhelt" (King) of Stonehold, is another example. He's the only Epic-level character in the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer who is not a wizard.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Iuz. One of his titles is "The Evil", and his symbol is a human skull.
  • Character Alignment: Present as in all D&D settings.
    • True Neutral: invoked In earlier Greyhawk stories and adventures, a lot of emphasis was placed on some characters' obsession with preserving the balance, especially the archmage Mordenkainen. To truly understand Mordenkainen's dedication to neutrality and balance, consider this: Mordenkainen released a sealed evil demigod from beneath Castle Greyhawk, simply because good was "too powerful".
  • The Chessmaster: Mordenkainen.
  • Crossover: Greyhawk has crossed over with numerous other D&D settings, though most of these crossovers are of dubious canon at best.
    • Oerth is one D&D world among many connected through the Spelljammer, Ravenloft, and Planescape campaign settings, at least until 3rd Edition when different settings were given their own cosmologies.
    • Vecna and his traitorous lieutenant, Kas, were briefly imprisoned in the Demiplane of Dread, home of the Ravenloft setting. Azalin Rex, one of the archvillains of Ravenloft, also originally hailed from Oerth.
      • One of the last 2nd edition scenarios, Die, Vecna, Die!, took the players on a tour of many settings, among them Greyhawk, Ravenloft and Planescape to stop said Vecna in his bid for godhood. The canon nature of several events there is hard to doubt considering that Vecna was at least partially successful if 3rd edition is anything to go by.
    • Duke Rowan Darkwood, one of the prime movers in the Planescape setting, was born on Oerth. He later used magic to travel to the world of Forgotten Realms, and from there to the City of Sigil in Planescape.
    • Mordenkainen, along with Elminster from Forgotten Realms and Dalamar from Dragonlance, was one of the "Wizards Three", a trio of archmages who met for friendly get-togethers in a humorous column in Dragon written by Ed Greenwood.
    • The grandson of Khelben "Blackstaff" Arunsun from Forgotten Realms, Khelben the Younger, took up planewalking and settled down on Oerth.
    • Completely canon however is the presence of various spells bearing the name of Greyhawk mages (such as Mordenkainen) in other settings. One would suspect Planewalkers were involved at some point.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Iuz is the grandson of both Baba Yaga and (maybe) Nyarlathotep.
  • Crown of Power:
    • The Black Crown of Aerdy gives +2 Intelligence, +3 Wisdom, and a bonus Character Level in the priest or wizard class. However, over time it also turns you Lawful Evil and insane.
    • If the Crown of Blackmoor is put on the head of a dead evil wizard of at least 18th Character Level, the body is changed into a lich.
    • The Iron Crown of the Bandit Kingdoms gives its wearer immunity to several mind control spells and increases a fighter's Character Level by one.
    • The Silver Crown of Veluna. When worn by a Lawful character, it radiates a Protection from Evil effect. If worn by a Lawful Good or Neutral Good character, it gives +4 to Wisdom.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: The faith of Al'Akbar, the patron demigod of the Baklunish people, is strongly based on Islam, down to the division between Shiite and Sunni sects. His holy artifacts, the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar, were originally published in Strategic Review #7 as fictional Muslim relics. The name is rather revealing — it's a shortened version of "Allah akbar", "God is great", a common Muslim saying.
  • Deceptive Disciple: An early pupil of Mordenkainen's, Natasha, seduced him, learned all that she could from him (even creating a well-known spell of her own, Tasha's Hideous Laughter), then betrayed him, surpassed him in power and went down in history as the Witch-Queen Iggwilv, ruler (for a time) of her own dark kingdom, author of the Demonomicon, one of the most authoritative treatises on demonology in the D&D multiverse, on-and-off lover of the Demon Prince Graz'zt, and mother of his greatest offspring, the demigod Iuz. Not that surprising, in retrospect, for a daughter of Baba Yaga...
  • Defector from Decadence: Many of the more good-aligned Suel people in the Flanaess are the descendants of people who broke away from the remnants of the Suel Imperium as they fled into the Flanaess. Only the most hardcore devotees of the Imperium continued to the far south of the Flanaess, where they became the modern Scarlet Brotherhood.
  • Deity of Human Origin: This is practically a tradition, and a major reason why Oerth does not have as many epic-level NPC's as the Forgotten Realms. Legendary characters frequently ascend to at least demigod status. Notable examples include Zagyg (very recently), Vecna, Wastri, Zuoken and Al'Akbar. Several characters are currently in the process of divine ascension, including Heward, Kelanen, Keoghtom, Kyuss and Murlynd. St. Cuthbert was allegedly once a mortal, but is said to have become a deity in ancient times.
  • Demon Lords and Archdevils: Most of the notable demon lords have had a hand in Oerth's affairs. Most notable are Graz'zt, the father of the half-demon demigod Iuz; Fraz-Urb'luu, a demon prince trapped under the ruins of Castle Greyhawk for centuries; Demogorgon, Prince of Demons, who launched a bid to conquer all of Oerth in the Savage Tide adventure series in Dungeon magazine; Lolth, Spider-Queen of the dark elves, who has ravaged both Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms; and Zuggtmoy, the Demon Lady of Fungi, who conspired with Iuz to build the infamous Temple of Elemental Evil.
  • Devil, but No God: Tharizdun, an Omnicidal Maniac Eldritch Abomination, is the ultimate force of evil in the cosmology, with the power to force all other evil deities and fiends to do his bidding; there is no corresponding good counterpart. A direct confrontation between Tharizdun and the forces of good would have destroyed the multiverse, so the neutral gods tricked him into sealing himself into a trap.
    • How dangerous is he considered? The pocket dimension he's sealed in has no exit at all, and the only possible area where it could be cracked open again is eternally guarded by an angel of the highest rank, with direct divine orders to vaporize anything and everything within vaporizing distance that tries to approach, without regard to alignment, circumstances, or intentions.
  • Doctor Whomage: An oblong blue box appears out of nowhere. Out of it appears a halfling wearing a large floppy hat and a long multicolored scarf around his neck (AKA the Fourth Doctor played by Tom Baker) who calls himself Professor Why. He is accompanied by two beautiful women who appear to have no romantic interest in him (Companions) and an armor-wearing dog called B-9 (K-9). The professor calls the blue box the CURDIS (Chronically Unable to Reach Destination In Silence). If the PCs enter it, they discover that it is Bigger on the Inside. The Professor cannot control the CURDIS's movements.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The racist, blond- or red-haired Scarlet Brotherhood are basically Nazis.
  • The Dragon: Saint Kargoth to Demogorgon. Also Kas to Vecna.
  • Dystopia Justifies the Means: The whole goal of the Empire Of Iuz is pretty much just to spread as much evil and suffering as possible. The Living Greyhawk Gazeteer even notes that the Empire's "chief export is misery"
  • Eldritch Abomination: In addition to the expected D&D aberration races such as mind flayers and aboleths, Oerth has Dread Tharizdun, an Omnicidal Maniac Mad God said to be a swirling spiral of black entropy, who wishes to return all of existence to oblivion.
  • The Empire: Several historical and present-time:
    • The Ancient Suloise and Baklunish Empires, which basically destroyed each other in a magical nuclear war dubbed the Twin Cataclysms.
    • The Great Kingdom of Aerdy, established by Oeridian tribes fleeing the Twin Cataclysms that destroyed the above-mentioned Suel and Baklunish nations. It once spanned most of the Flanaess, although it has since collapsed. Its two most recent successor states, the United Kingdom of Ahlissa and the Great Kingdom of Northern Aerdy, are borderline (especially the former) and both are competing to claim the legacy of their parent empire (earlier splinter nations like Furyondy and Nyrond or the Iron League tend to be considerably nicer though).
    • The Empire of Iuz, spanning a fair chunk of the northern Flanaess and directly ruled by an evil demigod.
    • The Scarlet Brotherhood intends to become one, but its internal struggles and rebellions among its conquered territories have prevented it (it doesn't help that for all their skill at playing The Chessmaster and Diabolical Mastermind, their military capabilities are comparably lacking).
  • The Emperor: The Overkings of Aerdy.
  • Evil Is Not Well-Lit: Dorakaa, the Capital city of the Empire Of Iuz, is permanently dark and overcast due to Iuz's Weather Control powers.
  • Evil Overlord: Iuz is the present holder of that title, but Greyhawk has suffered under many, many others — Lum the Mad, Shattados, Kyuss, Iggwilv, Ivid V and many others.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Quite a multitude.
    • Rary the Traitor, a formerly heroic wizard who turned on his companions, the Circle of Eight.
    • The undead Acererak, a skeletal wizard who's been dead for so long that all that's left of him is his skull. Easily the most sadistic sonuvabitch in the entire history of tabletop gaming, all thanks to his abode: the Tomb of Horrors.
    • Vecna: The ultimate evil sorcerer made good. Er, evil. Star of a series of popular adventures (including the awesomely named Die, Vecna, Die!), Vecna ultimately achieved actual godhood as Oerth's God of Secrets. How powerful is this guy? Two artifact tier items are his gouged-out eye and his hacked-off hand, left behind due to his near-fatal confrontation with Kas.
      • By 3rd edition, Vecna was so iconic that he became one of the gods of Dungeons & Dragons in general, typically holding the post of "God of Secrets, Black Magic and/or Necromancy and Forbidden Lore". So did his Hand and Eye.
    • Following Vecna's apotheosis, one of the most powerful mortal spellcasters on Oerth is the witch Iggwilv, who has enslaved genuine Demon Lords and used one to produce an heir: Iuz.
    • Keraptis, the maniacal overlord of White Plume Mountain.
    • Some interpretations of the Mage of the Valley make him outright evil rather than merely sinister and reclusive.
    • Evard, inventor of D&D's rudest spell, Evard's Black Tentacles.
    • Abi-Dalzim, whose name means "Father of Droughts" in his native Baklunish, worshiper of Incabulos the Black Rider and inventor of another fuzzy-wuzzy spell, Horrid Wilting (which sucks the water from enemies, leaving them withered husks).
    • Iuz offers sanctuary, authority and screaming victims to certain maniacal sorcerers in exchange for the use of their talents: this cabal includes Kermin Mindbender, Null, the mad illusionist Jumper, the vampire Maskaleyne and the unfortunate Vayne.
  • Evil vs. Evil: Evil groups like the Horned Society, Iuz, the Scarlet Brotherhood, the Aerdi kingdoms, Stonehold and Turrosh Mak are just as apt to fight and plot against each other as they are the forces of good.
  • Evil Versus Oblivion: Almost all of the setting's conventional villains (orc warlords, decadent nobility, secret assassin cults and even full-on demon lords) oppose any effort to wake, free, or aid Tharizdun. The Age of Worms Adventure Path could have some villains (especially the churches of Hextor, Vecna and Erythnul, due to a cult of heretical dupes from all three religions) also act against the rise Kyuss and the coming of said Age of Worms (none of the three are particularly keen on the continent being overrun by weird undead spawn and worm-monsters).
  • Face–Heel Turn: Rary and Robilar. This was a bit controversial, since they immediately signaled their new priorities by attempting to sabotage a major peace summit, going to unusual lengths to kill a few former associates while they were at it. It would eventually be revealed that it wasn't Robilar.
  • False Flag Operation: Iuz once disguised himself as Vatun, the main god of the Ice Barbarians in order to instigate a war against the Dutchy of Tenh
  • Fantastic Nuke: The ancient Suloise Mages of Power leveled the Baklunish Empire with the Invoked Devastation. The surviving Baklunish mage-priests retaliated with the Rain of Colorless Fire. Collectively known as the Twin Cataclysms, these caused mass-migrations of people into the Flanaess, as the survivors had wastelands where their empires had previously been.
  • Fantastic Racism: Plenty to go around, especially since several groups haven't even shaken off ordinary, intra-species racism.
  • Fantasy Aliens: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is an adventure module where a group of adventurers from the otherwise firmly fantasy world explore a cavern that turns out to be the long-buried remnants of a crashed starship. Within it, the characters will find themselves battling malfunctioning robots and alien creatures and may be able to scavenge advanced energy weapons and Powered Armor.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • The Baklunish people are similar to real-world Middle Easterners. It's implied that the Rhenee are Roma, having arrived on Oerth from another place called "Rhop" — possibly Europe. The Great Kingdom of Aerdy had a Holy Roman Empire vibe to it, while Perrenland and the Theocracy of the Pale evoke medieval Switzerland and The Teutonic Knights, respectively, and the barbarians of the Thillronian Peninsula are pretty much Horny Vikings.
    • The Olmans and the Flan are clearly based on Native Americans — the Flan on northern First Nations (Cree, Sioux, Iroquois, etc.), and the Olman on the southern nations, especially the Maya and Aztecs. The Flan, however, are a bit peculiar about this — they once had thriving, advanced kingdoms about two millenia ago or more, from which extremely powerful spellcasters like Vecna and Acererak came; by the time of the the Twin Cataclysms and the Great Migrations a little over a thousand years ago, however, they had reverted to "primitive" tribal enclaves for unknown reasons. Granted, giving rise to at least two of the setting's greatest evil sorcerers could just be related to said reasons, and the evil wizard-lord Keraptis disappeared (and is usually claimed to have been killed) about thirteen hundred years ago. His rise and fall may have been part of a general downward trend that resulted in the collapse of civilization in the region. Records from the time are, to say the least, sketchy. Eventually, several of the more successful Flan groups integrated in or adopted the newcomers' hierarchy, meaning that sizable Flan-blooded populations are rather common, and a few nations are dominated by this ethnic group.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Guns are generally accepted not to work on Oerth, although exceptions are made in some cases for the hero-god Murlynd and his paladins.
  • Food God: Merikka is the Oeridian demigoddess of farming and agriculture.
  • Forest of Perpetual Autumn: In supplement WG7 Castle Greyhawk. Level 4 of the Castle, "There's No Place Like Up", takes place almost entirely in an extradimensional area called "Eternal Autumn Woods". Most of the area consists of a forest with gold, orange and red colored leaves. The ground is covered with things like piles of raked leaves and bushels of apples.
  • For the Lulz: The mad archmage Zagig Yragerne created the wacky demiplanes of Dungeonland and the Isle of the Ape pretty much just because he could.
  • God-Emperor: Iuz is a half-demonic being, head of state, and focus of a Religion of Evil all in one.
  • God of Evil: There are dozens of evil gods, though Tharizdun is the one who most closely embodied pure, destructive evil.
  • God's Hands Are Tied: It's generally accepted that the gods cannot intervene directly on Oerth without starting the Apocalypse, and can only act through their mortal servants. This typically takes the form of granting divine spells, although they can act on a larger scale if their mortal servants meet the right conditions, such as using an Artifact of Doom. Exceptions to the rule are gods who actually dwell on the Prime Material Plane such as Iuz and Wastri (who tend to be among the weakest gods (AKA demigods), though still far more powerful than most mortals). St. Cuthbert has also appeared on the material plane on a couple of occasions, although it's implied that the gods of evil may be able to do the same at some point to restore the balance.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: Averted. While the gods of Oerth can derive extra power from worship, they do not need it to survive or be gods. Boccob, who has the not very reassuring nickname "The Uncaring", is actively worshiped by very few people, yet is still a greater god for example. Many deities with huge followings are less powerful than other deities with smaller ones.
  • Good Is Not Nice, verging into Light Is Not Good: The church of ostensibly Lawful Good god Pholtus, who commonly start prayers with the worryingly appropriate "O Blinding Light"; they have a strong streak of intolerance towards any other religion, even other good and lawful ones, considering non-Pholtus worshipers to be misguided, heathens or heretics, and advance a form of proto-monotheism with Pholtus as the sole god worthy of worship; taken Up to Eleven in the Theocracy of the Pale, where martial law and The Inquisition have been active for 200 years, who considers all other nations to be wretched hives for not worshiping Pholtus exclusively, and which has territorial and religious imperialistic designs on all its neighbors. Their hat is pretty much being Knight Templars. Consequently, they're considered Lawful Neutral as a whole rather than Lawful Good.
  • Grim Up North: The northern Flanaess contains:
    • The Evil Empires of the Horned Society and Iuz;
    • The Bandit Kingdoms, which are a series of Wretched Hives each held by Bandit Clans;
    • The Barbarian Tribes of the Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians who constantly fight and raid each other and the humanoids of the mountains;
    • The Hold of Stonefist, whose residents are Barbarian Tribes like the Frost, Ice and Snow Barbarians but are also Ax-Crazy psychopaths that even disgust the other barbarians;
    • The Hordes of the Tiger and Wolf Nomads, who aren't known for being friendly to outsiders;
    • The Theocracy of the Pale, a nation of Knight Templars who persecute any religion except that of Pholtus;
    • The Rovers of the Barrens, who are a Dying Race struggling to survive while fighting against their hostile neighbors;
    • The land of Blackmoor, which is The Remnant of a proud land that's been overrun by the bizarre Egg of Coot and struggles to survive under its despotic tyrant;
    • Perrenland, which was once ruled by the evil sorceress Iggwilv and, while mostly good-aligned still has some evil-aligned clans who support her;
    • The Duchy of Tenh and the Archbarony of Ratik, which are both surrounded by hostile neighbors on almost all sides and struggle to survive.
    • And the northernmost point on the map, the Land of Black Ice, might as well be transplanted from Mysterious Antarctica, only with black-colored ice.
  • Healer God: Pelor was the popular sun god of light, strength and healing.
  • Henotheistic Society: Several countries have a specific patron deity:
    • The Theocracy of the Pale is ruled by worshippers of the deity Pholtus and takes him as its deity.
    • In the early years of the game, the Archclericy of Veluna was dedicated to the deity St. Cuthbert.
  • Hidden Elf Village: The elven kingdom of Celene, which refused to aid its human allies during the Greyhawk Wars. The elven race as a whole tends to subvert this, as while they will help humans and other races in need, they're just more comfortable living among their own kind. Even within Celene itself, many elves disagreed with their queen's decision to not help their human neighbors, and work to help the humans anyway.
  • Illegal Religion:
    • In the Theocracy of the Pale, the only legal religion is that of Pholtus — all other religions are expressly forbidden.
    • In many areas religions based on evil deities are officially forbidden because of the death and destruction their worshipers tend to cause.
  • Irony: The toad-like demigod Wastri, whose priests themselves become more toadlike over time, is basically the patron of humano-centric Fantastic Racism, amusingly enough. Lampshaded in The Living Greyhawk Gazetteer:
    The fact that he dislikes nonhuman races, yet is only barely human himself, is an irony lost on the godling.
  • It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": Although most people pronounce "Oerth" to rhyme with "north", according to Gygax himself he pronounced it "Oyth" (as if with a Brooklyn accent).
  • Ladyland: The city of Hardby was founded by a Suel witch as a monument to the superiority of womankind after men caused a great magical war, and is traditionally ruled by an all-female council of gynocrats led by a despotrix. However, in recent years, male-dominated guilds and trade unions have been chipping away at their power.
  • Left-Justified Fantasy Map: Inverted—to the west lies the trackless Sea of Dust, all that remains of the Suel Imperium after the Rain of Colorless Fire burnt it to ashes. The ocean lies to the east and south.
  • Light Is Not Good: The ancient, defunct Suel Imperium, whose humans were fair-skinned and -haired, was clearly more wicked than its enemy the Baklunish Empire. Its modern descendants, the Suloise ethnic group, has mostly managed to cast off the attitude and reputation. However, certain secretive racist groups continue to plot.
  • Lovable Rogue: Gord.
  • Mad God: Several evil gods come off as at least sociopaths or psychopaths, but two gods deserve special mention: Zagyg (who prior to ascention was known as the mad archmage, and hasn't become any saner afterwards; not evil, though) and Dread Tharizdun (a monster wanting to unravel the universe; basically the Ultimate Evil).
  • Magitek: The Machine of Lum the Mad, the Mighty Servant of Leuk-o, the Doomgrinder and the Apparatus of Kwalish. The first three are also in the Artifact of Doom category. Rary is fond of creating Clockwork Creatures.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Castle Greyhawk is one big, mile-deep Death Trap. The Tomb of Horrors, meanwhile, makes Castle Greyhawk look like one o' them bouncy castles.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Iggwilv to Iuz, and to a lesser extent, Graz'zt to Iggwilv. Although given the peculiarities of their relationship (both are basically tsundere for each other, and both have Out-Gambitted the other quite a few times), it's hard to say who's the boss at any given time.
  • Mechanical Horse: Lord Robilar has one that Rary the Archmage built for him. Actually, Rary is rather fond of building magical automatons generally, including a full-sized dragon.
  • Medieval Stasis: It's a D&D setting, so part for the course, really; the technology of centuries past appears more or less on the level of the modern day, and guns are rare to nonexistent. A Dragon article suggests it'll eventually pull itself out of this, though.
  • Mirror Universe: Oerth has several parallel worlds, including Aerth, Yarth, and Earth (and possibly Mystara and Nerath). The most notable, though, is Uerth, where everyone's alignment is switched (most notably Bilarro, the evil double of Robilar — though Robilar was already evil; Bilarro is just worse).
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Iuz the Evil, Rary the Traitor, Dread Tharizdun, Ivid the Undying...
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: The Scarlet Brotherhood, a group of blond, fair-skinned human supremacists who practice selective breeding amongst themselves, and are devoted to exterminating certain groups of humanoids (like elves and dwarves) and making slaves of others (like goblins and orcs).
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: The Greyhawk Thieves' Guild is heavily involved in the city's government. Its assistant guildmaster is the Lord Mayor, and the lead guildmaster is part of the "inner circle" of Greyhawk's ruling council that crafts most major policies.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: The demon Fraz-Urb'luu was released from his imprisonment by two foolish adventurers.
    • So were Iuz, Zuggtmoy and many many others—mostly by the same band of intrepid adventurers (Gary Gygax's original gaming group).
  • Omniscient Council of Vagueness: The Circle of Eight, founded by Mordenkainen to manipulate events across the Flaeness.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: But of course. The evil duergar got their start here, but they're the same kind of evil gray dwarves found on most standard D&D worlds so the point still stands.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Actually, Our Elves Are Pretty Standard, all things considered. But on a related note, this setting was the Trope Codifier for D&D's dark elves. Though much rarer than in the Forgotten Realms, they even display the same tendency towards being redeemable, as proven by characters like Leda and several of the rebellious dark elves in the city of Erelhei-Cinlu. The Unearthed Arcana sourcebook even references the idea of drow being rebels due to their alignment, as well as making all elven sub-races, including drow, eligible for the Ranger character class. And all of this actually precedes the introduction of Drizzt Do'Urden.
  • Our Gnomes Are Weirder: Well, not really in this case; they're completely conventional D&D gnomes with the regular subraces like svirfneblin familiar to most players.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Out of all the D&D settings, the orcs of Greyhawk are probably the worst, if only because they have no notable heroes to show off their Proud Warrior Race Guy side (well, there's Turrosh Mak, but he's clearly too much on the "total asshole" side of things to be seen as admirable). They're very much of the "Tolkienian Orc" model, especially in early editions when they looked like pigs.
    • There is a notable exception to this rule, though; the sultanate of Zeif has a sizable population (10%, or about 140-150,000) of integrated orcs, descendants of mercenaries hired by the ancient Baklunish empire who mostly assimilated into the culture of the survivors over the last thousand years.
  • Phantom Thief: Gord the Rogue. He steals mainly for the challenge (and because he loves treasure).
  • Physical God: All of the gods are capable of taking material form, but the ones who most often walk the Oerth are Iuz, who rules an Evil Empire as its god-king, and Saint Cuthbert, who often dispatches avatars to fight Iuz.
  • Ragtag Band of Misfits: Fairly common to any Dungeons & Dragons setting, but Greyhawk can have some particularly odd ones. Mordenkainen used to belong to one that turned out to include the Big Bad Iggwilv when she was starting out, for example.
    • Paul Kidd created one of the oddest adventuring bands this side of Planescape for his Greyhawk stories. How often do you see an adventuring band comprised of a human Ranger with an attitude befitting a Paladin, a still-sentient redeemed and very friendly Hellhound's skin, a fairy sorceress (with a crush on the Ranger), a naive young adventurer-wannabe, a shy and humble sphinx, and a Motor Mouthed merchant (who eventually ends up as a badger), to say nothing of the prissy sentient sword?
  • Religion of Evil: Kinda comes with the territory when you have a bunch of evil gods active. Fortunately, there's just as many good gods (and just as many neutral gods) with their own churches.
  • Retcon: After Gygax and Kuntz both left TSR, in the Greyhawk Wars storyline, Kuntz's character Lord Robilar betrayed his friends, killing some of them; Kuntz was none too happy. Twenty years later, Wizards of the Coast published Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, in which it's retconned that Robilar had been replaced by an evil double from a Mirror Universe.
  • The Savage South: Much of the southern Flanaess has elements of this:
    • The Hold of the Sea Princes. Before the Greyhawk Wars, it was a country of decadent, wealthy pirate lords who exploited and sold slaves kidnapped from the southern jungles. After the Wars, it was conquered by the Scarlet Brotherhood, who enjoyed setting the slaves and former slavemasters at each other's throats. Now, it's the center of a bloody civil war between the Brotherhood, various factions of the old regime, escaped slaves, and nihilistic servants of Dread Tharizdun;
    • The homelands of the Scarlet Brotherhood, a group of Nazi-like martial artists who believe that the pale-skinned and fair-haired Suel are the "master race" of the world, and want to conquer that world and make the Suel its rulers;
    • The Lordship of the Isles, which is a haven for pirates, slavers and scalawags. It betrayed the rest of the Iron League during the Greyhawk Wars and threw in with the Scarlet Brotherhood, whose operatives it now shelters. The Lordship is also known for its blood feud with the rival pirates of the Sea Barons;
    • The Spindrift Isles were pleasant places to live...before they were driven out of their homes by the People of the Testing, an organization of elven fundamentalists obsessed with the mysteries of the elven gods but not caring what the impact of their attempting to solve these mysteries has on other races;
    • The County (later Kingdom) of Sunndi is another pleasant place to live, but it has the Vast Swamp on its southern border, a bog inhabited by the bigoted toadlike god Wastri and his hateful followers;
    • The Amedio Jungle and Hepmonaland are filled with dangerous savages, most of which are themselves of Sueloise descent, in addition to many dangerous monsters.
  • Science Fantasy: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. It concerns a crashed spaceship filled with aliens and robots—in the fantasy world of Greyhawk. The players can even hijack a suit of Powered Armor and take it with them after the adventure ends (though thankfully it has limited fuel). Needless to say, many fans consider it Fanon Discontinuity.
    • However, there have been a number of Shout Outs to it over the years. 4th edition even included stats for the Vegepygmy (an enemy introduced here) and a number of the classical sci-fi weapons.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Several examples.
    • Iuz (and eight other demigods, including two other evil ones) were trapped beneath Castle Greyhawk by Zagig Yragerne, who siphoned off their power to become a god himself.
    • Fraz-Urb'luu was also trapped in Castle Greyhawk by Zagig, presumably as a practice run for his gambit at godhood.
    • At the beginning of time, the unspeakably powerful and insane Tharizdun was trapped in a remote demiplane by the rest of the gods.
  • Standard Fantasy Races: The five playable races are humans, dwarves, elves, gnomes and halflings.
  • Star Power: Celestian is the deity of space and the stars. He has a number of space/star related powers, including Aurora Borealis, Comet, Meteors, Space Chill and Starshine.
  • Take That!: The bizarre Egg of Coot, a ruler in the Blackmoor area, was a jab at a certain Greg(g) Scott, a member of the Midwest Military Simulation Association and wargame miniatures manufacturer with whom Dave Arneson had previously clashed. (It's often mistaken for a jab at E. Gary Gygax.)
    • The Castle Greyhawk module had some very heavy ones to Gary Gygax and his style of adventure design. As Gygax had just been kicked out of the company, most people didn't take it in good fun.
  • Technical Pacifist: The clerics of Zodal, god of mercy, are allowed to fight but typically deal nonlethal damage.
  • Theme Naming: Ernest Gary Gygax named a huge number of people and locations after himself, including Yrag, Tenser, Urnst, and of course, Zagyg/Zagig Yragerne.
    • A lot of other people were named after Gygax's players and children, or drawn from other mundane sources:
      • Drawmij, of Drawmij's instant summons fame, is Jim Ward's character. Spell Jim Ward backwards... There's also a Drawmidj Ocean.
    • Melf (of Melf's acid arrow and Melf's minute meteors), a male elf character, was named from what appeared at the top of the character sheet: M Elf.
  • Throne Made of X: The Malachite Throne of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy. The stone was pulled from a cavern called the Cauldron of Night. Also an Artifact of Doom.
  • The Undead: Notables include the liches Acererak and Vecna, described above. Also the first death knight, Saint Kargoth; the vampire Kas; and the piteous, zombie-like King Ivid the Undying.
    • Ivid's state was a bit of Laser-Guided Karma, though; in his insanity, he arranged to get evil clerics to create a new type of powerful, free-willed undead, the Animus. He then proceeded to give the "gift" of death and reanimation as an animus to scores of lords, generals and priests without bothering to find out if they wanted it. Needless to say, a lot of his supporting hierarchy was either pissed or terrified they would be next; his own animus transformation following his assassination shattered what little lucidity he had left, leaving a paranoid, gibbering and unpredictable wreck, whose only notable accomplishment was completing the ruin of the Great Kingdom, his own realm.
  • Vain Sorceress:
    • Iggwilv, the Witch of Perrenland, the mother of Iuz and on-again-off-again consort of the demon Graz'zt. She appears as a stunningly beautiful young woman and sadistically kills anyone who sees her true form—a hideous crone.
    • Wee Jas, the Lawful Neutral goddess of death and magic, is noted for being both beautiful and vain.
  • Vestigial Empire: The fractured Great Kingdom, now split into numerous warring states.
    • The successor-states born from its final collapse are at each other's throats, but those successor-states who'd seceded in the previous centuries (the Great Kingdom's been losing chunks for a long time) get along pretty well for the most part.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Rary just wants to bring peace to all of Oerth... by crushing it under his heel.
    • Mordenkainen wants to keep balance, even if it means unsealing evil demigods and razing entire kingdoms.
  • What Might Have Been: Gygax had planned to write a series of expansions covering the rest of the supercontinent Oerik (of which the Flanaess is only the northeastern portion), but his recurring absences from Lake Geneva to work on the animated series and potential movie deals in Hollywood forestalled that (and ultimately helped lead to his ouster from TSR at the end of 1985). An official map of the entire continent was eventually released in Dragon Annual #1 in 1996, and later publications such as the Chainmail relaunch in 2001 and the Canonfire! fan site added more details.
  • Wretched Hive: The Vault of the Drow and the village of Nulb.
    • Eastfair, capital of Great Kingdom successor-state North Kingdom is noted as being a reflection of the debauchery of its monarch, Overking Grenell.
    • The City of Greyhawk itself qualifies: although it has many good inhabitants, the city is essentially run by a council of merchant guildmasters and leaders of organized crime. The rich — and/or the magically talented — live in luxury among gardens, fine restaurants and concert halls, while at the other end of town overpopulated slums are so rife with crime and disease that being a member of the Beggar's Guild is a step up.


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