One of the things that I snuck into my “Greyhawk’s World” article from a while ago was a mention of an attack on Strandkeep Castle in the Pomarj by forces of the Prince of Ulek. Keen-eyed readers will recognize that as a reference to the opening scene of Artifact of Evil, the second of Gary Gygax’s books featuring his hero Gord. The series was later continued on in the Gord the Rogue series, published by New Infinities after Gygax left TSR, and he ended up destroying the multiverse, probably in a fit of pique at how he was treated.
That said, the first two books (Saga of Old City and Artifact of Evil) are pretty well established Greyhawk canon, and they fit in well with the events of the campaign related in those Dragon magazine articles, Greyhawk Wars, and From the Ashes.
However, in order to figure out how good a fit those books really are, we need to figure out when they’re supposed to take place. As far as I can tell, there’s no actual mention of the year in any of the books, so we must use other means to make the determination.
First, we can look at the publication date. The original Folio was published in 1980, and was set at CY 576. Can we assume that the campaign years progress at a rate of one campaign year for every real-world year? If so, then we can conclude that the majority of Saga of Old City takes place in CY 581. That was my initial assumption, but unfortunately it doesn’t hold up. The original Dragon magazine article that “advances the timeline” for Greyhawk was published in the December 1981 issue, which would put it at late CY 577. Unfortunately, that article makes reference to events that happened in Reaping, 578.
So the campaign world/real world assumption doesn’t hold up. We need to look elsewhere.
Fortunately, the City of Greyhawk boxed set gives us the answer. In its description of the Beggar’s Union, it describes the war between the Thieves and Beggars, orchestrated by Theobald, as happening “15 years ago”. Now the question becomes, when is the boxed set set?
We know that it can’t be earlier than CY 581, because there is a mention of the Shield Lands being occupied by the bandits and Horned Society (FFF, p. 4), and that happened between 579-581. So now we’ve narrowed it down to 582-585. Continuing our journey through the FFF book, on p. 44 we learn that Caprica Molara left the Shield Lands in 581 (“when the last remnants of that area fell to the bandits and humanoids”), and has been in the city for three years. That lets us put a pin in the City of Greyhawk Boxed Set at CY 584.
As an aside, it’s interesting to note that the City of Greyhawk boxed set seems ignorant of many of the happenings during the course of the Greyhawk Wars, other than the fall of the Shield Lands. The fall of Tenh is not mentioned, Almor is treated as if it still exists, as do the Sea Princes, and the Scarlet Brotherhood has not revealed itself. Obviously from a real-world perspective this is because the Boxed Set was published in 1989, while Greyhawk Wars did not come out until 1991. It is, however, interesting to note that the Wars did include the fall of the Shield Lands, even if the details were slightly different.
So if the Boxed Set is set in CY 584, the war between the thieves and beggars happened in CY 569. At that time Gord was around 14 years old (he was 12 when he entered the Beggarmaster’s service), so he was born around CY 553. He left Grey College some 3 years later (p. 75), and he remained in the city for another 2 years before departing the city with the Rhennee (p. 83). That would put his departure at CY 574.
Eight years after Gord left the city of Greyhawk, he returns to the city at the end of Saga of Old City (p. 339), marking the end of the novel at CY 582. It also places the events of the novel (the plot by the Horned Society to invade the Bandit Kingdoms, the maneuvering by Count Blemu to form an independent realm, the battle with the cataboligne demon in the cairn, etc.) in the intervening time.
As far as Artifact of Evil goes, we have less solid information, unfortunately. Gord stays in Greyhawk with Chert for about six months, at which time Chert leaves the city (p. 32). The battle of Strandkeep happens about another six months later, which would make it CY 583. The fact that the Scarlet Brotherhood isn’t really well-known at this time works with the timeline in Greyhawk Wars; they didn’t reveal their own plan until late in that year, so it’s entirely likely that they were on the verge of their coups in the Lordship of the Isles, and the next year they take over the Sea Princes and Onnwal. And also in CY 584 Turrosh Mak (supported by the Brotherhood, it should be noted) invades the Principality of Ulek, so we can infer that Strandkeep Castle was recaptured, and it’s entirely possible the invasion was a reprisal for that humiliation of the Brotherhood.
It’s hard to track the total time spent in the book, but it seems like it’s only a few months, probably no more than a year all told.
So, my placing the battle of Strandkeep Castle in CY 578 is definitely wrong, although it could be that there was more than one. We do, however, see how the events of the first two Gord books interplay with what we know about the history of those years from other sources. It’s not perfect, as we saw with the City of Greyhawk boxed set missing information that would be developed later, but it’s also nice to see that the pieces do fit in the big picture.