Friday, 24 March 2023

Castle Greyhawk – The Comic Strip

“The ending is nearer than you think, and it is already written. All that we have left to choose is the correct moment to begin.”
― Alan Moore, V for Vendetta

Castle Greyhawk
Is Castle Greyhawk the quintessential soul of the Greyhawk setting? It was, once. Indeed, Castle Greyhawk was likely all there was originally. Or so I surmise. Paint a picture, if you will, of a certain (then obscure) man at the head of a table, a motely crew of friends and family gathered about him, hanging on his every word as he described what they “saw” and “heard” in their minds’ eye: dark and dank passages, torches crackling, distant footfalls, howls and growls in the distance.
So it began, with scribbled notes, a few mazes penciled on a page, and a whole lot of clattering of dice. Granted, there was a whole history leading up to that moment: boardgames and wargames, an idea that a “player” might control a single figure (call him a character) and not an infantry or cavalry division, and a love of classic sword and sorcery fiction… Where did all this lead? To Arneson’s Blackmoor and Gygax’s Greyhawk. And adventurers delving deeply into a maze infested with monsters. Combat and Treasure. Rinse and repeat.

There have been a few Castle Greyhawks since. None are Gary Gygax’s original; thus, one might argue than none are “definitive.” I expect those iconic first levels are lost to time.  Since then, there have been a few stabs at giving the people what they want, the definitive dungeon, to varying degrees of success, I might add: the much maligned WG7 Castle Greyhawk; minor mention made in the City of Greyhawk Boxed Set, if no details other than the environs surrounding it; then the first serious attempt to create what was lost, WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins, a decidedly Monte Haul module by reputation. Gary Gygax then gave us what some might call the most definitive version, his incomplete, and now out-of-print, Castle Zygyg – I say most definitive because it comes from Gary himself, and who could argue that its original creator is/was the final authority on how that famed dungeon was laid out, and what might have lurked in it (that said, his Castle Zygyg may only be a reimagining of that original dungeon if he lost his original maps and notes years before its publication). One might argue that the real ruins is now Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk, it being the newest, and maybe the most detailed. I might mention that Joe Bloch of Greyhawk Grognard fame has created his own version: The Castle of the Mad Archmage, available on DriveThruRPG.
What I refer to here is none of these.

Adventuring with Yrag
Long ago, in a fandom far, far away (2006), Scott Casper penned a "fanfiction novella called 'Castle Greyhawk' out of his love for the World of Greyhawk, even though his art skills sucked too bad to make a comic stip. You can find his work here." His words, not mine.
"In 2005 Mike Bridges started making the W.O.G comic strip out of his love for both comics and the World of Greyhawk. You can find his work here." His words, not mine.
Fortuitously, they found one another. They began what I’m drawing your attention to: a serial Graphic novel, found here.
What’s it about? Tenser’s early days, his association with Yrag, then Robilar and Teril, and Serten and Merlyn and Mordenkainen. There’s even a side story concerning Erac and Erac’s Cousin sandwiched within.
Is it canon? I don’t know; probably not, most likely not, but it feels canonical, so some of what unfolds within its panels might very well have been gleaned from discussion with Rob Kuntz, and maybe the dearly departed Mr. Gygax himself. If not, no matter; it’s a story. It’s not half bad, either. It’s not Alan Moore, but it does not pretend to be, either. It’s a work of fan fiction, and it deals with a very specific subject: adventuring, and Castle Greyhawk. In that, it succeeds where WG7 most certainly failed; it takes the dungeon and the exploration of it seriously, adding insight into iconic player characters from the dawn of D&D. Who could ask for more?

Castle Greyhawk, Absolute Edition
You could ask for a compilation of this work in print, I suppose. You’re in luck! You can have your cake and eat it too, it would seem. Sadly, its original print run has long expired, but it’s still out there. You might, if you are exceedingly lucky, find a copy on eBay, but I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it available there (it may pop up there from time to time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath). It is available in POD form from, though. Hardback. That’s your best bet if you want a physical copy of this fanfiction gem.

Have I read it? I have. The online version on blogspot, anyway. (Here's the link, again.) I do not own a copy of the “Absolute Edition” as yet, so I cannot comment on the quality if its stock, its binding, or layout of the POD.
No matter, I invite you to peruse the blog, even if you decide to not purchase the POD. It’s Greyhawk fiction, after all.
If you're a completest, you will surely want this “chapter” of Greyhawk history on your bookshelves – you've no excuse not to if you purchased Rose Estes' “Mika” novels, even if you won’t admit to owning them – just sayin'.

“There's a time and place for everything, and I believe it’s called 'fan fiction'.”
― Joss Whedon

One must always give credit where credit is due. This post is made possible primarily by the Imaginings of Gary Gygax and his Old Guard, Lenard Lakofka among them, and the new old guards, Carl Sargant, James Ward, Roger E. Moore. And Erik Mona, Gary Holian, Sean Reynolds, Frederick Weining. The list is interminable.
Special thanks to Scott Casper and Mike Bridges for their labours of love.

The Art:
Selections from Castle Greyhawk, the Comic Strip, by Scott Casper and Mike Bridges, 2012-2019
Greyhawk Ruins, cover, by Fred Fields, from WGR1 Greyhawk Ruins, 1990
Castle Greyhawk – Absolute Edition cover, 2019

Castle Greyhawk, the Comic Strip, 2012-2019
Castle Greyhawk Absolute Edition, 2019

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for thr kudos and the trip down memory lane. Time flies when doing projects in the greyhawk community. I regret we didnt do a more streamlined story that was meant for print. Webcomic worked with my schedule and was meant to keep fan interest over a lomg time. Maybe someday ill do another regular comic. When inspiration hits me...