Zagyg and the Pussycats

This video has a lot in common with the latest release from Troll Lord Games, Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works. You might consider this the first part of my review of Upper Works, but I’m not going to talk about any specifics about that product, but rather what it has to say about the legendary Castle Greyhawk in general. Perhaps this is my review of the Introduction.

Even among us Gygax purists, it is a misnomer to speak of “Gary Gygax’s Castle Greyhawk” as if it were a static thing, as if there was the one he used back in Lake Geneva and that was that. The tale had been related by EGG in various places on the web, but it is very succinctly put in the introduction to Upper Works. In short, there was the original original dungeon, with 13 levels. Then he remade it completely (but based on the first), with Rob Kuntz as co-DM, and it hit 30+ levels. Then he made a 6-level version for convention play, again based on what had gone before. And now we have Castle Zagyg, with an unknown number of levels (as yet) and yet another re-design of the dungeons based on what has gone before, and yet not in any specific way identical to it.

Given that history, I wouldn’t see any reason to not view this as an authentic version of “Castle Greyhawk” (even if the names are changed for reasons of legality). If, that is, Mr. Gygax actually wrote it.

It turns out that Gary Gygax is not the author of the present work. Various sources on the Internet tell the same story, that they were at one point or another the actual authors, and sent their material in to Gary for review and correction.

And you know what? That doesn’t bother me too much, either.

The key to the equation, to my mind, is just how heavy a hand EGG had in that process. If he just gave things a cursory glance and said, “fine, dump the truck full of money in my living room and I’ll sign”, that would be one thing. But I am told, by several people who would legitimately be “in the know” that EGG’s hand was exceedingly heavier than that during the creative process. He might not have written the first draft of the text, but apparently he was a heavily involved editor, to the point of re-writing substantial pieces of text. Little, if anything, has escaped his scrutiny and influence.

Reading the books, it is obvious that his literary style has either been scrupulously copied or imposed upon the text. That, in and of itself, is a positive mark in my book, and I can only hope that future releases received similar attention from him, and are only in the pipeline because of the realistic limitations of the production process. I daresay it will soon become apparent if they are not.

So what does this have to do with the video? Well, when it comes to Castle Greyhawk/Zagyg, as far as I can tell, it’s the same song no matter how you sing it. And what a great song it is!

Written by 

Wargamer and RPG'er since the 1970's, author of Adventures Dark and Deep, Castle of the Mad Archmage, and other things, and proprietor of the Greyhawk Grognard blog.