Greyhawk: Return to the Classic
Free City of Greyhawk
The campaign setting, created by Gary Gygax in the 1970s, takes its name from the city and was the most widely developed setting for the Dungeons & Dragons game until it was overtaken by the Forgotten Realms setting in the 1990s.
Greyhawk, named for the small grey hawks which populate the region, was originally a trading outpost on the Selintan specializing in local wood and woven garments. In time the town developed strong textiles and meat-packing industries. From the earliest days, Greyhawk was ruled by a warlord who took the title “Landgraf of the Selintan.” This first Landgraf’s son was then married to the Gynarch of Hardby’s daughter. The nuptials formalized a political alliance that served as the basis for rule over the Lanstadt of Selintan, the area that eventually became known as the Domain of Greyhawk.
In 4 CY, Greyhawk came under the domination of the Great Kingdom of Aerdy and remained so while strong Overkings ruled from the Malachite Throne in Rauxes. The Great Kingdom’s influence over the city began to wane during the third and especially the fourth centuries as the House of Rax declined and the Overkings hold on distant provinces became increasingly tenuous.
Rise to prominence, decline and recovery
In approximately 310 CY, the mage Zagig Yragerne emerged from the Wild Coast and bribed his way into a seat on the Directing Oligarchy. Soon after, the Oligarchs elected Zagig Lord Mayor.
Greyhawk subsequently rose in fame and prominence under the leadership of Lord Mayor Zagig. He instituted legal reform, developed a new currency, fortified the walls, founded the city’s first university and embarked on a major building program. Most notably, he directed the construction of nearby Castle Greyhawk.
Although Zagig – later known as Zagyg – became increasingly erratic over time, his rule is generally considered to be the most effective in the Free City’s history and brought widespread prosperity to the region. Much to the annoyance of Dyvers and other rival cities, Zagig proclaimed Greyhawk to be the “Gem of the Flanaess,” and did much to ensure this moniker was justified. Unfortunately, the “Mad Archmage” disappeared in 421 CY, leaving no clues regarding his whereabouts, and no heir to inherit the title of Lansgraf.
In 498 CY, after decades of Zagig’s absence, the Landstadt was therefore abolished, the title of Lansgraf permanently retired, and the Free City’s Directing Oligarchy assumed political authority. The new Lord Mayor Paerinn officially proclaimed Greyhawk a free city, though it had been effectively independent of the Great Kingdom’s rule for over a century.
Soon thereafter, the city lost its claim over Hardby and the Wild Coast, as the leading women of Hardby broke from Greyhawk and established the ruling office of Despotrix. This loss of lands sent the Free City into economic decline, a situation that persisted for several decades. Fortunately, the discovery of treasure in the dungeons beneath Castle Greyhawk and other nearby locales set off a gold rush of sorts, and Greyhawk’s economic fortunes recovered substantially in the second half of the sixth century.
The Greyhawk Wars and the post-war situation
The Free City of Greyhawk actually had less direct involvement in the so-called Greyhawk Wars than many political entities across the Flanaess, but because the final truce was brokered in Greyhawk in CY 584, the war has come to be named for the city.
The Wars had several important effects on the city, however, particularly in that the unrest drove Hardby and the Wild Coast cities of Safeton and Narwell to re-submit to the rule of the Directing Oligarchs. This situation is unstable, however, as it was largely fear of Turrosh Mak’s humanoid raiders from the Pomarj that prompted this move, and the Despotrix and the Wild Coast cities once again agitate for increased independence.
Also as a result of the Wars, the city has seen an influx of new citizens. Some of these are wealthy diplomats, and some are “nobles” who have contributed significantly to Greyhawk’s coffers with the purchase of various counterfeit titles and documents. But many newcomers to Greyhawk are destitute refugees, or are merely using the city as a base for hatching political plots and intrigues across the Flanaess. In particular, there are persistent rumors of covert Scarlet Brotherhood operations in the city.
The post-war situation for the Free City is therefore mixed. Greyhawk’s finances are in the best shape they have been since Zagig’s departure, but the city faces significant challenges arising from political instability and increasing criminal activity.