Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Retrospect-- Greyhawk: From the Ashes

I miss boxed sets.

They were like opening a box of goodies on Christmas day.

I can't say for sure, but I think Greyhawk: From the Ashes, by Carl Sargent, was the first ever D&D boxed set I bought.

Some Greyhawk diehards don't like From the Ashes. Greyhawk was just fine without the wars and upheavals.

I can't blame critics. In retrospect, Greyhawk was getting the short end of the stick, given the lackluster material TSR was publishing for it in the late 1980s. The Fate of Istus shoehorned Greyhawk into Second Edition if you played it as written. Grognardia called Greyhawk Ruins the "Worst. Module. Ever." I don't own it, so I can't say. Other modules like Child's Play and Puppets certainly weren't prize-winners. Greyhawk: From the Ashes for many Greyhawk fans must have been the straw the broke the camel's back. I disagree, I think both From the Ashes and the original World of Greyhawk boxed sets have merit. I like both of them.

Besides, back then I didn't know any better. All I knew was this: I finally had the whole map and descriptions of the World of Greyhawk. My bother let me have his books, but his 1983 World of the Greyhawk boxed set was off limits, include its wonderful map. Back when I first started running games, he did photocopy the Wild Coast and the Southern Keoland/Dreadwood region for me. This was sometime in 1989 or early 1990 if I recall. From the Ashes did come out until 1992.

Thus, the wait was over. I read through both the Altas and the Campaign Book at least twice,
devouring Greyhawk lore. An I introduce material from the Campaign Book as soon as I could.

The map on the right has seen a lot of use.  The player-characters in my campaign tromped all over that map from late middle-school into early college. They adventured from the Welkwood, throughout the Wild Coast, into the Mistmarsh, to the City of Greyhawk itself, and sought lost treasures in the Carn Hills and Abbor Alz. I used a lot of the material from the Campaign Book, supplemented with my own.

If you look closely, you can see I've drawn on the map. Since I was already running adventures before I had From the Ashes, I had to account for things had gone before.  I like the official Greyhawk material, but never let it dictate the direction of my campaign. I used the material, and there was a lot to chose from, to supplement my adventures, not the other way around.

I didn't, however, get much use out of the campaign sheets (pictured above on the left). I had planned on running some of the adventure cards, but in the end never used them. I didn't use the encounter tables much either.

Of course, the biggest treasure in From the Ashes is the reprint of the World of Greyhawk map by Darlene. No, it is not an exact reprint. The original showed the depths of the seas with variations of blue, and, of course didn't have "Lands of Iuz" stamped across the Fellreev Forest. Yet the reprint was good enough for me at the time.

From the Ashes was supposed to revitalize interest in Greyhawk. Yet there was always interest in Greyhawk. It just got overshadowed by the Forgotten Realms, or had to compete with other settings from the time. I just don't think TSR knew quite what to do with it after Gygax left the company. They wanted to focus on the Forgotten Realms, yet at the same time not alienate Greyhawk fans by throwing them a bone every once in a while.

We now know, of course, how the story ends. Greyhawk got the axe in 1994, which made From the Ashes even more precious to me at the time. Perhaps its needless to say, but I cheered when WotC brought Greyhawk back in the late 2000s.

But alas, they didn't bring back boxed sets...


What are you experiences with the From the Ashes boxed set? Do you think it suppassed the original boxed set? Or did its material mess up Greyhawk too much?

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