Friday, May 17, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 11: Europa 6-8

I had promised earlier to intersperse Gary Gygax's earlier D&D articles into this series where appropriate. This time around it's an article from Europa, a war-gaming fanzine created by Walter Luc Haas of Switzerland. This issue is cover-dated April 1975, so I've placed it after Supplement I: Greyhawk. This may not be strictly accurate. The article indicates that Greyhawk is upcoming, so at the very least the article was written before Greyhawk was published. Whether it was published before or after is a mystery. Any comic fan can tell you that cover dates and publication dates rarely match up, and I doubt that fanzines are any different. Anyway, it says April on the cover, so that's where I'm slotting it in lieu of more accurate information.

For those who want to check out this article (and the complete fanzine in which it saw publication) the link is here.

How to Set Up Your Dungeons & Dragons Campaign - And be Stuck Referring it Seven Days Per Week Until the Wee Hours of the Morning! by Gary Gygax

The first thing that should be noted is that this is part II of a series. According to Falconer in this thread, the other two parts are shorter and less interesting. The first covers the origins of the game, and the third covers the game's future, with the release of various supplements. I'd still like to see them, but it's nice to know that I'm not missing a great deal.

Gygax sets out everything that the referee should so to set up a D&D campaign. It's info that should have been included in the original rules, let's be honest.  He outlines five broad steps that must be taken:
  1. Deciding on the overall setting of the campaign
  2. Mapping the countryside of the immediate area
  3. Mapping the dungeon where most adventures will take place
  4. Mapping the nearest large town
  5. Outlining the entire world, including other times and dimensions if required
Step 1 is simply figuring out what type of world the adventures will take place in. Gary gives a few examples, including Teutonic/Norse mythology, medieval European folklore (including King Arther and Holger the Dane), the Hyborian Age, Fritz Leiber's Nehwon, Indian mythology, and the lost continents of Mu or Atlantis.

For step 2, Gary recommends mapping the wildernes on hex paper, with a scale of 1 mile per hex.

Step 3 requires mapping the dungeon, and Gary recommends having a theme for each level. Some sample themes given are: a level with large open areas swarming with goblins; a level where the basic pattern of corridors seems to repeat endlessly; and one inhabited by nothing but fire-dwelling or fire-using monsters.

At this point, we get what is probably the most detailed description of "Old Greyhawk Castle" yet to see print. It's said to be 13 levels deep, and goes as follows:
  • Level 1 was a simple maze of rooms and corridors (which Gary deemed to be interesting enough for those who had never played such a game before).
  • Level 2 had two unusual features: a Nixie pool and a fountain of snakes.
  • Level 3 features a torture chamber and many small cells and prison rooms.
  • Level 4 was a level of crypts filled with undead.
  • Level 5 was centered around a strange font of black fire, and was inhabited by gargoyles.
  • Level 6 was a repeating maze with dozens of wild hogs in inconvenient spots, backed up by appropriate numbers of wereboars
  • Level 7 was centered around a circular labyrinth and a street with masses of ogres.
  • Levels 8 through 10 were caves and caverns, inhabited by trolls and giant insects. They also had a transporter nexus, guarded by an evil wizard with a number of tough associates.
  • Level 11 was the home of the most powerful wizard in the dungeon, and his balrog servants. Martian White Apes populated the rest of the level. There was also a system of sub-passages underneath the corridors, which was filled with poisonous creatures with no treasure.
  • Level 12 was filled with dragons.
  • Level 13 (the bottom level) contained an inescapable slide which took the players "clear through to China", from which they would have to return via the wilderness.
  • A series of slanting passages began on level 2 and led to the bottom level, but apparently the chance of stumbling downwards was greater starting from levels 7-8.
  • Side levels include a barracks with warring clans of orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls; a museum; a huge arena; a giant's home; and a garden of fungi.
Gygax has given some contradictory information about Castle Greyhawk over the years. No doubt some of that is due to the ever-evolving nature of the dungeon, but I'd chalk some of it up to memory and the passage of time. Given the vintage of this article, I'd expect everything here to be fresh in Gary's mind, and quite accurate.

Step 4 involves mapping the town and Gary says that the place should resemble something from the Conan or Fafhrd & Gray Mouser stories. Strange towers, a thieves' quarter, and temples to horrible deities are given as features to include, as are factions such as the thieves' guild, a society of evil clerics, and a brotherhood of lawful men.

Step 5, outlining the world, is said to be something the referee doesn't need to tackle right away. Visiting other worlds is mentioned as a possibility, with the option of flying a magic carpet to the moon given as an example.

The rest of the article is given over to some brief tips on creating PCs, and a bit about how someone wanting to play a Gold Dragon should be handled. None of it's concrete enough to be of much interest to this project. Certainly it's not a patch on the solid gold Castle Greyhawk details given above.

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