City of Greyhawk (1989)

About a year and a half after World of Greyhawk came out, Gygax was forced out of TSR and Greyhawk went mostly dormant as focus shifted to developing Forgotten Realms. In 1988, the setting saw a revival, starting with the Greyhawk Adventures hardcover and the mean-spirited joke that is the Castle Greyhawk module. 1989 saw the release of the City of Greyhawk box set, coinciding with the release of the second edition of D&D.

This is a brand new city, designed by Carl Sargent and Rik Rose to reconcile various details published in other material over the years. The result is a sturdy, believable medieval style city that never really finds its own atmosphere or character (and it is certainly possible to make a detailed but largely normal RPG city interesting – see TSR’s Lankhmar: City of Adventure from 1985). There isn’t anything obviously wrong with City of Greyhawk, but there isn’t anything terribly exciting about it either.

The box has two books. The gazetteer is a tour guide of the city and its environs, while the other, sporting a delightfully hideous Daniel Horn cover, is an over-detailed and under-illustrated catalog of people, organizations and their rivalries. The only thing in the latter book that is particularly memorable is the reconfiguration of the Circle of Nine (previously the Circle of Eight) into its most recognized form, before it was visited by tragedy and betrayal in the later Iuz metaplot. Dry as all this is, though, it is an important foundation for Sargent’s re-imagination of Greyhawk over the next few years.

The best part of the box is the stack of card stock adventure one-sheets, of which there are 23. The vast majority of them display more energy, wit and cleverness than the dreary guidebooks could ever hope to muster. The second best thing in the box is the birds-eye map of the city by Valerie Valusek, which is one of TSR’s best, though lesser known, bits of cartography.

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