EXPEDITION TO THE RUINS OF GREYHAWK (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Long before the Forgotten Realms, Eberron, heck before most of us even knew what a role-playing game was, there was Greyhawk. Created by Dungeons & Dragons godfather Gary Gygax, Greyhawk would morph from a castle to an entire world. This was the world developed by Gygax and other early D&D pioneers Dave Arneson and Len Lakofka. Over thirty years later Greyhawk maintains a mythical air. It’s characters such as Mordenkainen, Bigby, Vecna, Tenser, and Lolth, whose names are scattered all about the D&D world in relation to spell names and magical items. Over the years, both TSR and Wizards of the Coast have put out supplements based in Greyhawk and the latest major edition is the Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, a truly massive campaign designed for characters of 8 – 13th level (Think higher rather than lower). And while it may be set on Greyhawks world of Oerth, it can easily be dropped into an existing campaign. One would have to think that Gygaz would have loved to have been able to produce a 200 plus page “module” but that was unheard of back then.
The lore of Greyhawk is some of the richest ever developed and frankly puts The Forgotten Realms to shame. The characters developed are some of the most interesting and vibrant characters ever created. The first chapter of the book details many of these major NPCs such as Zagyg (Gygax spelled backwards) who built Castle Greyhawk; Iuz the Demi-God, Archmages Iggwilv and Mordenkainen, and Lord Robilar.
The developers could have just thrown a massive dungeon crawl at players and most would have probably been happy to run gleefully off to play in Greyhawks many levels. But you really do get a complete campaign of not only the castle itself, but its surroundings that is loaded with side quests brimming with intrigue and action. Many of these side quests are ongoing throughout the book and can be revisited numerous times over the course of the entire campaign. The Welcome to Greyhawk chapter details the town itself, popular stopping points like the Green Dragon Inn and Temple of St. Cuthbert; major NPC’s, town culture and much more. Mini-maps of the towns various regions are included.
All that remains of the castle are the ruins of three towers: The Tower of magic, The Tower of Zagyg, and the Tower of War. The real action lies underneath these interconnected towers in miles and miles of dungeon levels. Each tower and its dungeons are full detailed with maps and encounter areas as well as random encounter tables. Even getting inside the ruins are no easy task as the players will find out in a series of daunting quests. The sheer scope of the entire adventure could be daunting and its really best suited to a very experienced DM as this much more than a usual hack-n-slash adventure. I mean, it’s fun just to sit down and read through the levels. I’m still not real crazy about the major encounters being written up at the end of each chapter instead of just being there as you go along.
There are surprisingly few new monsters and magic items which is fine by me as there are MORE than enough to go around already. Literally this is an adventure which, depending on how often you play, should take players many weeks if not months to complete. It’s big…it’s deep…and its waiting…I really like this book although I’m partial to the whole Greyhawk mystique. I think the writers have tried to be faithful to Gygax’s creation while adding their own unique handprints.
Mania Grade: A-
Written By: Jason Bulmahn, James Jacobs, Erik Mona
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast