Returning to First Principles

Back in the earliest days of role-playing, everything was “D&D”. It didn’t matter that you were playing with the magic system from the 3 LBB’s, an alternative experience point system from Alarums & Excursions, a couple of character classes from Arduin, and a home-made combat system based on your experience as a white belt in the SCA. It was all just “D&D”.

Then other games started to come out, like Runequest, the Fantasy Trip, Arm’s Law/Claw Law, and so forth. But even then, it was only the hard-core fans of specific games that actually used them in the generic sense. “D&D” was the “coke” of its day. It didn’t matter if it was really RC or Pepsi; it was still “coke”.

Homebrew campaign settings were not just the norm– they were pretty much the only game in town. Judges Guild’s City-State setting had its fans (myself numbered among them, I might add), but the World of Greyhawk was little more than a few names in the DMG and a handful of articles in The Dragon. (Note the “the” in the title.) Sure, Runequest had Gloranthia, and I’m sure there were some others I’m forgetting right now, but that was just what you did. You created your own campaign, what we today would call “homebrew”.

I find myself yearning for those days. Homebrewed rules cobbled together or invented out of whole cloth. Putting together a truly homebrewed setting.

I think the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting, although it has been a favorite of mine for years, has finally passed me by. Sure, I own all the material that’s ever been published, but I pretty much close my personal interest after the “From the Ashes” material. I deal myself a hand where I choose between revisiting the oldest material published, studiously ignoring the new, and go on to create my own campaign material based on those earliest products. So why not just go back to what I’ve done before, and create a world of my own, out of whole cloth? I’ve plumbed the depths of Greyhawk as far as I’m inclined to do. I’m moving on to something new. It’ll be more folklore-ey, and less Tolkein-ish, with a lot of swords-n-sorcery, but no Earth-saving epic quests. It’ll be a sandbox with a tentpole.

As far as system goes, even though I play with the 1st edition AD&D books by my side, the truth is that I don’t play it as written. Nobody does, or ever did, Gygax included. So why not put together a game of my own, that works exactly the way I think it should work? Not to publish– I think the OSR has enough games in the mix right now, and I fear to add to the dilution– but for my own edification and use in play. Get rid of the ridiculously cumbersome stuff. Streamline the slightly-clunky stuff. Beef up the ridiculously under-developed stuff. Not a retro-clone, but a completely new game that plays the way I think D&D should play. Will that put it under the OSR umbrella, just because of who I am and how I play? I think so, but who can say for sure?

So, the news is; the Greyhawk Grognard blog is closed. I will leave it up as a resource for those who found my Greyhawk-specific material of interest and use, but new posts will be reserved for my new blog, which will cover my efforts to put together this monstrosity I’ve envisioned, as well as whatever more general thoughts I come up with on fandom, the gaming industry, the OSR, and so forth. Thanks to all who’ve supported the blog over the last couple of years; I hope you find the new one to your liking as well.

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.

14 thoughts on “Returning to First Principles

  1. Good luck on your blog.

    I fear to add to the dilution

    I think if you presented it as a book of your campaign notes and house rules you are not diluting anything.

  2. Good luck. I'll be watching. If you're interested in any audience participation, let me know. Maybe a PBEM game in your new setting/system, for playtesting?

  3. Mazel Tov!

    Please don't hesitate from sharing your streamlined and houseruled system here, even if you never go to Lulu. I always find them interesting.

  4. Say it ain't so, Joe!!!

    To me, Greyhawk = homebrew. And you have rekindled my interest and inspiration in the setting. I thank you, sir.

    I look forward to what you will have in store for us in your new blog.


  5. Hey I've been reading your blog for more than a year and I'm looking forward to your new world.
    I also like the homebrewn campaign the best, since then I don't have to read up on a lot of background but just make up my own.
    As a game system I would advise the new XD20 that Tracy Hickman introduces in his XDM book ( for me it's now my Holy Grail of tabletop rpg. 🙂

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