Random Wizard Blog

Two Levels of the Real Castle Greyhawk

Gary Gygax was born on July 27th, today, and I wanted to delve into a topic that I have been pondering for the past week since stumbling across a picture of Mr. Gygax, with a clear view of one of the levels of Castle Greyhawk.

Castle Greyhawk has been a holy grail of sorts for long time players of Dungeons and Dragons. It was mentioned many times as the original dungeon Gary Gygax created to test out the first draft of Dungeons and Dragons. Unfortunately, Gary Gygax and TSR parted ways in 1985 and the "official" TSR version (without Gary) of Greyhawk was released in 1988.

Gygax had no involvement in creating WG7 Castle Greyhawk, and it is often seen as a childish attempt by the new TSR at poking fun at Gary's creation. It is truly a bizarre, fun house dungeon filled with 80s pop culture references. There is little doubt that it bears little resemblance to the original Greyhawk.

Gary passed away in 2008 so we may never see what the original Greyhawk was like. But there are some tantalizing clues lurking on the Internet that might give us an approximation. Readers have probably seen the picture of Gary holding a three ring binder, with a map (done with pencil and graph paper) on display as he (somewhat) poses for the camera. Grognardia even posted about the picture back in August of 2012, and mentioned how it has similarities with his original Dwimmermount campaign.

This picture has been suggested to represent one level of Castle Greyhawk. Is it the original map that Gary put together way back in the early 70s to test his first draft of Dungeons and Dragons? I would guess probably not, but it still gives an indication of Gary's style, and hence, is probably a good reflection of what the original Castle Greyhawk is like.

And, recently, I came across another picture of Gygax holding the same style three ring binder (I would guess the same one). The caption stated, "Gary Gygax Dungeon Mastering his last game of OD&D. His map in the photo is Castle Greyhawk. January 12th, 2008". This would lead further credence to the idea that the two photos represent Castle Greyhawk in some form.

So, if we take these two pictures and manipulate them in a image editor, putting them side by side, what do we have? Note that you can click the image below to see a larger version of it.

Notice any similarities to other early 70s TSR products? The answer to what Castle Greyhawk was like was probably sitting under our noses the entire time. If you compare the maps above to a product that Gary put together and released in 1976, you can see the similarities in the mapping styles.

Here is a small excerpt from the introduction of the geomorphs, "by placing the sections in clear plastic (acetate) sheets ... making changes and notes ..., and covering the finished dungeon with transparent contact paper, thus making the level permanent." That phrase sounds similar to what appears in Gary's binder from the images above.