Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Valiant Swords of Greyhawk - Setting Details


Well the setting is obviously Greyhawk but it was not automatic. I considered running it in the Forgotten Realms - mainly because it's pretty familiar to my group (and to everyone else right?) - but ToEE is one of the definitive Greyhawk adventures where the locations and the gods and many other elements of the thing are just tied to that world and are not really generic. Sure, it's possible to relocate it - I've done it - but this just feels like the right move. 

The unfamiliarity with Greyhawk is now a plus as well. With my guys being somewhat burned out on 5th edition D&D changing up the system to some degree and also changing the setting to one they haven't seen in a long time (or ever for some) will freshen things up as well. My first 3rd Edition campaign was set in Greyhawk 23 or so years ago and part of that campaign was Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil which ended in a memorable TPK that still comes up in conversation today. After switching to a different setting for a while that group eventually came back to Greyhawk with a new party because they wanted to finish the adventure. They didn't, but we had some memorable moments there too. Three of my players from those campaigns are still with me for this game so I expect a lot of callbacks to those days and hey, even some of the NPCs from back then might show up.

The other issue here - strictly my own issue - is when to set this thing. When I was running Greyhawk back in 2nd Edition I decided to set all of my games in the same timeline and I retroactively decided the C.Y. 576 date in the original folio was effectively 1976 in the real world and just advanced things year for year with the real world calendar. So all of our games in the 80's were in the 580s and then my 2E games in the 90's were in the 590's and I kept that going with the 3E stuff as well so my own Return to the Temple was in 601 and later in my Greyhawk. This wrecks the official continuity of course with the Wars and From the Ashes etc. but I don't really care about maintaining a sacred canon timeline anyway - it's  MY setting and my players' setting, and we will do with it as we please in our own games. 

The only time this really causes consternation is when we replay a particular adventure or as in this case when we played a sequel 20 years before we played through the original. I'm partly inclined to reset the whole thing back to say 574 and keep it in time with the current year all over again. That said though, since I have some of the same players, I'm also inclined to keep it going and just say the history of the original temple's destruction still applies, then the Return decades later, and now a revival of the original still more decades later. I'm still thinking it over and it doesn't really impact our actual play but I will eventually make a call here.

Within Greyhawk the location of Hommlet and the temple are well documented but I'm looking to add some more details to the area - like side adventures. 

  • I'm thinking B1 (which I also have the Goodman Games version of and have not run) would be a nice drop-in.
  • I may convert the old Haunted Keep and drop it in somewhere as well using the Dragonsfoot expansion as a base. 
  • If the need arises I could use Sunless Citadel. I should say re-use as that was part of that original 3E campaign back when.
  • Forge of Fury would also be a decent option if I need something interesting beyond starting level.
  • Some of the One-Page Dungeon entries should be handy as well for short expeditions. 
  • Who knows, maybe the old DMG Monastery will even make an appearance! I ran it as "Dungeon of the Fire Opal" from an issue of Dungeon I believe - this was also back in 3E. A few tweaks and I don't think my veterans will recognize it.
I think lower level stuff will be more useful early in the campaign as I expect that the group will focus in on the temple proper as they dig in and as their characters become more durable.

Early on in this exercise I was also thinking I would love to find a way to work in the Saltmarsh series as well but I think it's too far away and best kept as a potential side campaign if the need arises. That way characters could cross over if wanted but it wouldn't be an assumed part of the game. If we need an extended side expedition because people are going to miss or if they get tired of dungeon delving the whole sailing the Azure Sea angle would make for a nice break and they could stay with it through similar levels or break off and head up to Hommlet and the temple if they wanted to later. I like to have some contingency plans in mind as it makes it easier to lay down some connections just in case. 

Long term the goal is to run through the entire ToEE - hopefully without a TPK this time - and then journey forth to go Against the Giants. Then of course the dream is to investigate the Drow and their spider-queen, possibly with an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks along the way. It's a lot to pack in to one campaign and it's a heavy diet of classic adventures but I know they will be a blast - so why not aim high?

More to come for sure. 

No comments: