Monday, December 29, 2008

REVIEW: Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works (Part III of III)

As I noted in Part II, I like Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works. I believe it's a very fine product and well worth the money I spent on it. I also think it's a fitting capstone to Gary Gygax's life and career, even if it's a somewhat melancholy one. I say "melancholy," because TUW is a textbook example of opportunities missed and promises unfulfilled. While it is still, by any measure, a worthy product and a truly Gygaxian one, it could have been better than it was. There's a host of "could have beens" associated with this product and I'd like to talk about several of them to give a better context for my final review of TUW.

1. Timeliness: As we now know, TUW will be the last product of the Castle Zagyg line published by Troll Lord Games. That it was also, by most standards, also the first product in the line to attempt to make good on what most fans expected from it only makes this fact harder to accept. I understand that at least some of the delays in getting TUW to press were not TLG's fault. A combination of factors, no doubt including Gary's failing health, contributed to its tardiness. By the same token, had the projct been better managed from the start, with a realistic timetable and a fewer about-faces in terms of content and format, there's a chance we might have seen more than TUW in the four years since the project was first announced. A good portion of my dissatisfaction with TUW stems from the fact that, after all these years, it's all we've managed to see of the megadungeon I had hoped we'd have seen by now.

2. Appearance and Organization: Being an old schooler, I'm quite accustomed to amateurish products and indeed have a certain affection for them. At the same time, there are many companies out there that have managed to produce attractive and well organized materials without having the resources of Wizards of the Coast. TUW should have been treated like the prestige product that it clearly is. Its organization should have included at the very least an index and better cross-referencing and I don't think it's asking too much in expecting an overview of the entirety of the Castle and its levels. TUW is packed with information -- which is a good thing! -- but it's not particularly user friendly, especially compared to products like Rappan Athuk Reloaded or Castle Whiterock, both of which are larger and yet easier to use. Likewise, TUW's box is flimsy; mine is already splitting after very little use and its pasted-on cover is starting to peel and crack. All these complaints are minor in themselves and I'd have quite happily overlooked them, but, in aggregate, they contribute to the impression of a product made with less care than it ought to have been.

3. Historicity: I had hoped that Castle Zagyg would have taken an approach closer to Rob Kuntz's products, such as The Living Room and The Original Bottle City. In those products, Kuntz not only presented a reconstruction of material from his days as co-DM of the Greyhawk campaign, but also commentary on the origins of this material and how it was used, including reminiscences of events from those days. In some cases, this made the material very "modular," which is to say, disconnected from its original environment, but it also made the material far more useful for referees hoping to drop it into their existing campaigns. Furthermore, it made the material of terrific interest to people whose primary attraction to it is in gleaning insights into the early days of the hobby, not to mention details of one of the oldest fantasy campaigns in existence. Granted, there was never much chance that the Castle Zagyg line was going to adopt this approach. Anyone who'd read Yggsburgh could have seen that. Gary himself stated on numerous occasions that he didn't favor treating the Castle as a "historical" product. I think this was an error in judgment on his part, if only because I don't think historicity need get in the way of gameability. Indeed, I think a greater emphasis on historicity would have made the material of wider interest and greater gameability, particularly for old schoolers such as myself. Again, it's probably unfair to judge TUW too harshly because it didn't adhere to a model that its creator rejected, but I can't deny I held out hope that he might have changed his mind in the course of writing it.

4. Completeness: In itself, TUW contains everything it promises. It does detail all of the Upper Works of Castle Zagyg. Unfortunately, the Upper Works aren't where the Castle "lives." They're, at best, a tantalizing glimpse of what lies beneath them, a sideshow that briefly holds our attention before we move on to bigger and better things. Jim Ward notes that, in the original Greyhawk campaign, the Upper Works occupied very little of the players' attention, because the subterranean levels were far more lucrative and intriguing. I find it hard not to feel the same way. Were it not for the fact that the Upper Works are all that have been described, I rather suspect that most adventuring parties would imitate their Lake Geneva predecessors and delve deeper, lured on by the promise of sights more exciting than endless humanoid barracks and store rooms. To be fair, there is much more to the Upper Works than these things, but, taken as a whole, the feeling I come away with is that TUW describes only a handful of truly memorable encounters and a whole lot of filler intended to keep players busy until such time as the Real Dungeon is published. Alas, it never will be, at least not by TLG -- and that's deeply frustrating.

As you can see, my complaints are, in large part, extraneous to the actual product itself, having more to do with what I wish had been the case rather than what is. For me, TUW, like the entire Castle Zagyg line, is timid and mundane when it should have been daring and otherworldly. TLG and Gary clearly decided to "play it safe" in presenting the Castle and I can't shake the feeling that this approach was unwise. Had TUW (and Yggsburgh before it) treated us to lots of commentary, historical context, and vintage Gygaxian lunacy, I would likely have deemed the entire line a glorious failure cut short by the vagaries of licensing. As it is, what we have is a solid -- dare I say "workmanlike?" -- product with occasional moments of brilliance. TUW has a kind of watered-down, washed-out feel to it, as if it were a copy of a copy of a copy. You can still see the artistry of the original piece of art, but it's muted compared to what it must have looked like fresh from the brush of the Master. Instead of being grateful that the original was preserved, however badly damaged it was from the toll of years, I found myself thinking it far less impressive than the stories I had read of it from those who saw it in its glory.

My hope is that Gygax Games, now that it has reclaimed the license, will take a new tack in any future publication of materials relating to Castle Greyhawk. There are many valid approaches a company could take that would, I think, do justice to this most famous of megadungeons. My own preference is for an approach similar to that adopted by Rob Kuntz in his own work, with additional input from members of the old Greyhawk campaign, where possible. This approach would almost certainly run counter to the tastes of modern gamers, but then I don't think Castle Greyhawk was ever likely to appeal to modern tastes and it was a fool's errand to ever think it could. Perhaps the best approach is to treat Castle Greyhawk/Zagyg primarily as a document of historical interest rather than as a complete, ready-to-play "mega-adventure." Such an approach would be truest to the spirit of the Lake Geneva campaign back in the day and also the most realistic as a publishing project. Anything more would, I fear, reduce Gary's legacy to a mere brand -- which isn't to say it won't happen. Even TLG was heading in that direction, as they dubbed the line "Gary Gygax's Castle Zagyg."

As far removed as we are in time from the days of the Greyhawk campaign, it's well-nigh impossible to produce a definitive version of the Castle that fulfills 30+ years of hopes and dreams. It would be best, I think, not even to try to do so and it's here that TUW's reach exceeds its grasp. By aiming for a playable Gestalt approach to the megadungeon, it winds up being less than the sum of its parts, at least as far as I'm concerned. It's lacking both in the expansiveness necessary to make me overlook its disconnection from history and in historical depth to make me overlook its smallness. For some, these are probably not flaws and the middle of the road approach adopted in Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works hits a sweet spot that neither of my preferences would have done. I certainly recognize that my own tastes are idiosyncratic and far from widespread, even among old schoolers, most of whom seem to like this product far more than I do. Even I, for all my complaints and nitpicks, can't grade it too harshly. I remain unmoved from my repeated assertion that I am glad I own this and find much good in it, but I am equally unmoved from my belief that, as the final work from the pen of the Dungeon Master, it's disappointing on numerous levels. Gygax Games has one more chance to fulfill the promise this megadungeon holds. Let's see if they do so.

Final Score: 3½ out of 5 polearms

28 comments:

  1. I, too, love RJK's Bottle City. It has precisely the presentation I wish had been given to Castle Greyhawk. Gary's death, however, has made such a presentation impossible. Given that, here is what I think would be the best format for publishing Gary's dungeons of Castle Greyhawk:

    1. Like RJK's Bottle City, simply photocopy Gary's extant Castle Greyhawk maps onto high-quality paper. Don't alter them AT ALL. Leave smudges, hard-to-read things, etc. entirely intact.

    2. Like RJK's Bottle City, release typed transcriptions of all the notes Gary had of the dungeons. Yes, these notes will be bewildering and (to a large extent) incomprehensible. So be it. If you think that's hardcore, part of me thinks that photocopies of Gary's handwritten notes should be published as well.

    3. Get all the old hands that can be found who adventured in Gary's Castle Greyhawk dungeons. Have them look over all the stuff and give any and all of their memories of the dungeons, both general and specific. Publish all this commentary, with each individual comment clearly identified as to its author. Leave all this unedited. Let each person speak in his own, uncensored voice. If that means four-letter words, fine. If that means blatant contradictions between different players' memories, that's fine too. Sadly, this type of "player's eye-view" commentary is the best we can do now that Gary has died.

    All the above would be a very cool product that I'd buy in a heartbeat. It's as close to the real Castle Greyhawk (besides Rob's stuff) that we can ever hope to get.

    Oh, and no art. Any post-1970s D&D art (or recycled 1970s D&D art) would strike a wrong note.

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  2. Will you cry when Gygax Games announces they are releasing Castle Gygax for 4ed?

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  3. All this talk did inspire me to get the 2e-era 'Greyhawk Ruins' off Ebay, it came in a set with Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun and Isle of the Ape, a very nice combo worth the $40_ I paid including p&p to the UK.

    'Greyhawk Ruins' is an impressively dense product which does pack a huge (and COMPLETE!) mega-dungeon into quite a small folio. I'm thinking about integrating it with TLG's Mouths of Madness for a Castle Greyhawk campaign. It occurs to me it ought to be integratable with Upper Works also (since it leaves the upper works undetailed), but I'm not sure that's worth the additional effort and expense. I'd be interested in any thoughts you have on compatibility of UW and GR.

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  4. Will you cry when Gygax Games announces they are releasing Castle Gygax for 4ed?

    Unless Gygax Games is working out a separate deal with WotC to be able to use Greyhawk-specific IP and exempt themselves from certain provisions of the GSL. the likelihood that any future Castle Zagyg publications will use 4e is slim to none.

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  5. S'Mon said: I'm thinking about integrating [GH Ruins] with TLG's Mouths of Madness for a Castle Greyhawk campaign. It occurs to me it ought to be integratable with Upper Works also (since it leaves the upper works undetailed), but I'm not sure that's worth the additional effort and expense. I'd be interested in any thoughts you have on compatibility of UW and GR.

    Prior to the publication of CZ I started to design an upper work environs for my version of the Castle, and sketched out something that might be able to accommodate as much GH Castle materials as possible. I'm not sure if it's worthwhile to try to incorporate the 3 towers of GH Ruins with a full Castle a la CZ:UW, but I do like the concept of using the best material from all of the sources to detail my own version of the Castle.

    Allan.

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  6. I'd like to point out a different viewpoint from which 'Upper Works' and entire CZ line can bee seen: as a setting and modules for C&C. I guess many people -like myself- bought them also (I wouldn't say only) as such. I really think C&C is the missing variable in your review and it explains a lot the specific direction the CZ line has taken, as opposed to the one you suggest. C&C isn't just a way to put out old school material (it's not OSRIC) but a game with its own personality, which is only partially old school. I happen to like it a lot (better than simply going back to play AD&D1) and in fact I first got interested in C&C and only later in CZ. My thought was simply "Cool! a setting for C&C by the Dungeon Master himself, with reminescences of Greyhawk".
    When I bought Yggsburgh I was skeptical that the actual castle would ever see the light of day, but I bought it nevertheless because it was a nice "old schoolish" setting for C&C. The main flaw I see in UW, is that it is not the whole thing. But this is certainly independent from TLG's will!

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  7. Andrea,

    You're certainly correct that the Castles & Crusades connection is one I overlook. Part of that is because I don't play the game myself. The other part is that, while it's true that TUW is presented as a C&C product, I'm sure TLG was counting on its garnering interest from players of other systems, especially old school D&D. That's why I bought it and I'm sure many others did as well. I do think it might be interesting to read a review by someone who's a C&C player and intends to use it solely as the basis for a campaign using those rules.

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  8. I would personally have to agree with Mr. Gygax that tailoring a product for a small segment of your most rabid hardcore fans at the expense of hobbyists in general is a big mistake.

    Rob Kuntz's business model is perfect if you're talking about very narrow-interest collector's items intended to be sold at premium prices to a few hundred people at most.

    Gary Gygax wanted something affordable, widely-distributed, and accessable, not a limited run museum piece for gaming scholars. I think this was a wise choice on his part.

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  9. I have to admit I have next to no interest in acquiring copies or abridged versions of Gygax's Castle Castle Greyhawk notes, material or bible. It just holds no interest for me at all beyond a passing scholarly one, which is not enough to command my attention in this instance.

    A finished product designed by Gygax (and preferably developed and entirely authored by him) I might have bought to play, though ideally someone else would buy it and I would participate as a player.

    This stuff about wanting wanting access to his "original notes", just leaves me cold. If Gygax had wanted the public to have access to them, we already would. From the standpoint of a fellow game master, I can appreciate the desire to retain the mystery, and I think I prefer it that way.

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  10. I've run a good bit of C&C and I think CZ: Yggsburgh is a nice C&C campaign setting in its own right, though the 'Moat Gate' etc town expansions are severe overkill.

    I think though that the Castle Zagyg series must be accounted a failure both from the grognard perspective and from that of the modern C&C GM. Neither interest was served by a series that took far too long and was always planned to go into far too much detail, from a publisher without the resources to bring it to completion. Necromancer or Green Ronin would have struggled to accomplish what TLG intended, from them it was hopeless. Mongoose or WoTC have the resources, but would have the business sense not to try, when a £20-£30 single product is a far more sensible approach.

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  11. I'll admit, I may be biased by my personal "old school" leanings, but I couldn't have put my own feelings regarding TLG's Castle Zagyg project into words any better than you have in this review. (And, to an extent, I agree with Geoffrey's idea of releasing unrefined maps and unedited notes, along with anecdotes/comments from original Castle Greyhawk players. Ideally, though, these would be an addendum to a more polished product, created with extensive help from those most familiar with Gary's mega-dungeon. This, hopefully, would make the product of interest to old farts like myself and those younger players who have less interest in such things.)

    When I first read that TLG was planning to release Gary's megadungeon, my heart leapt and ached for the release - finally - of Castle Greyhawk as it should have been all these years. Then came Yggsburgh, and I grew less excited. ("Where's the Castle?!") That slow loss of excitement continued through the roller coaster of peripheral CZ releases and Gary's untimely passing; it finally expired with TLG's loss of the CZ license.

    I received CZ: TUW as a holiday gift, and I will treasure it - as a collector's piece, the closest we have yet come to seeing the Great DM's megadungeon. I can guarantee, however, that it will never see play at our game table, and in that fact I feel a sense of loss and sadness.

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  12. I do think it might be interesting to read a review by someone who's a C&C player and intends to use it solely as the basis for a campaign using those rules.
    I volunteer, if I can get my hands on a copy.

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  13. James,

    Good post as usual. We, the readers, can tell that you put significant effort into what you do, and it is like a good cup of coffee in the morning. I can not say the same of this product.

    First off, I do want to say that I appreciate what the Troll Lords do. I like the guys a lot, however, I do have to be a bit critical in my commentary of TUW. They have great ideas, it is just that their execution is a bit off. In general I agree with your comments. I do think your rating of 3.5 is a bit high, and would rate it at a 3. I agree with your assessment on the overall quality of the product, and that really leaves me with the feeling that they could have done more. I am ok with amaturish products, as long as they are small products, BUT this is not a small product, this is a flagship product, and I expect flagship quality. When I look at RARE from Necro, it is a solid product in terms of layout and design. JUST picking it up, one can tell that this is a quality product. They have poured in their love into this, and it shows. Now look at what Monte did with Ptolus. Now I realize that Monte's stuff is not for everyone, and that is fine, but you have to admire the quality (and love) that went into Ptolus. This is what a flagship product looks like. What makes this special is all the little things he did - the index, the side bars, the commentary about what happened in his campaigns, reference notes, color, etc...it just goes on and on. Can you imagine if Monte had teamed up with Gary and they put out CZ with the love and quality that went into Ptolus...wow! That would have been a really SPECIAL product. To me, this why the product missed the mark, and it should have been exceptional product. There was a historic opportunity here to seize the day and make a truly amazing product, but that is not to be. It feels like it was rushed, and after the number of years it was in development, that is a disappointment. I am glad I have the product, I am glad that I ahve a bit of history in my hands, I am glad the Troll Lords finally published it, but at the same time I can not shake the feeling that it is a small product, when it should have been an awesome product.

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  14. This stuff about wanting wanting access to his "original notes", just leaves me cold. If Gygax had wanted the public to have access to them, we already would. From the standpoint of a fellow game master, I can appreciate the desire to retain the mystery, and I think I prefer it that way.

    I think that's a fair comment; I can't really argue against your perspective. I can only say that, given that this product included the words "Castle Zagyg," I don't think it's unreasonable to expect we'd see a greater relationship to Castle Greyhawk than we got. If all Gary and TLG intended to produce was a wholly new Gygaxian dungeoncrawl, that'd have been fine with me. But the name chosen was chosen to evoke the glories of the Lake Geneva campaign and its famous megadungeon. It was a calculated attempt to play on nostalgia and the hopes of gamers who've been waiting for nearly 30 years to get the goods on Castle Greyhawk. That's where my disappointment comes from and it's why I feel TUW was less than it could/should have been.

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  15. I think though that the Castle Zagyg series must be accounted a failure both from the grognard perspective and from that of the modern C&C GM. Neither interest was served by a series that took far too long and was always planned to go into far too much detail, from a publisher without the resources to bring it to completion.

    That's the gist of it for me. It's a "neither fish nor fowl" kind of product and I'm just not sure for whom it was written. The presentation seems to be aimed more at newcomers, while the name for the line seems to have been an attempt to draw in old timers looking to get a peek into the legendary dungeons beneath Castle Greyhawk. In the end, we got not enough of either, which is a real pity, because there are flashes of brilliance in TUW that made me wish there'd been better management of the entire project.

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  16. I received CZ: TUW as a holiday gift, and I will treasure it - as a collector's piece, the closest we have yet come to seeing the Great DM's megadungeon. I can guarantee, however, that it will never see play at our game table, and in that fact I feel a sense of loss and sadness.

    That's fairly close to how I feel about it, right down to the sense of loss and sadness. As I said above, there are flashes of brilliance in TUW, as well as some true Gygaxian goodness, but there's not enough of either and you have to dig through a lot of material that just doesn't excite me to get to it. That didn't have to be the case and I'm disappointed that it is.

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  17. I am glad I have the product, I am glad that I ahve a bit of history in my hands, I am glad the Troll Lords finally published it, but at the same time I can not shake the feeling that it is a small product, when it should have been an awesome product.

    Indeed. I think I feel much worse about TUW than I might otherwise have had there been a serious prospect of our ever seeing more of the dungeon. As it stands now, this is it. This is all we'll ever see and that knowledge, combined with the product's other shortcomings, large and small, contribute powerfully to my feeling of dissatisfaction. I don't think TUW is a terrible product, but it's certainly less brilliant than it had every reason to be and that's a real pity.

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  18. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect we'd see a greater relationship to Castle Greyhawk than we got. If all Gary and TLG intended to produce was a wholly new Gygaxian dungeoncrawl, that'd have been fine with me. But the name chosen was chosen to evoke the glories of the Lake Geneva campaign and its famous megadungeon. It was a calculated attempt to play on nostalgia and the hopes of gamers who've been waiting for nearly 30 years to get the goods on Castle Greyhawk. That's where my disappointment comes from and it's why I feel TUW was less than it could/should have been.

    I dunno, I think this is kind of missing the point. What we got was the first installment of something analogous to what we would have gotten when Gygax first started making promises back in the hay day of AD&D. He never promised his notes, and only ever planned to follow through on the original proposition [i.e. to create a Castle Greyhawk product].

    Yeah, it is hugely disappointing that he died before he could complete this project (let alone that he couldn't have been the sole author if he had lived, which would have been the ideal), but I am not really sure why that should reflect on this product; surely, that is a complaint to be made against the product line?

    I just do not see what people expect to get out of the notes, apart from an index against which to judge future incarnations, not withstanding that most of the spirit of the dungeon was largely in his head and the way he ran it.

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  19. I just do not see what people expect to get out of the notes, apart from an index against which to judge future incarnations, not withstanding that most of the spirit of the dungeon was largely in his head and the way he ran it.

    It'd be an invaluable historical document from one of the oldest RPG campaigns and would provide some insights into the mind of one of the co-creators of the game. I'd love to see Dave Arneson's notes for Blackmoor Castle for the same reason. I can understand that this isn't to everyone's taste, but surely you can see the value in this approach.

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  20. It'd be an invaluable historical document from one of the oldest RPG campaigns and would provide some insights into the mind of one of the co-creators of the game. I'd love to see Dave Arneson's notes for Blackmoor Castle for the same reason. I can understand that this isn't to everyone's taste, but surely you can see the value in this approach.

    I think there would be very little to be gained for running the Castle Zagyg/Greyhawk product. Such material would be of academic interest, but I think conflating it with the purposes of this product is a mistake.

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  21. Such material would be of academic interest, but I think conflating it with the purposes of this product is a mistake.

    My difficulty is that I'm not quite sure what the purposes of TUW were. As I said above, it's neither fish nor fowl and I think that makes it feel more muddled than it ought to. I don't think it's a great intro product and it's certainly not as good an evocation of the old school as I'd have expected, never mind a glimpse into the history of the hobby. Had TUW been more clear about its purposes, I might have been more willing to accept it for what it is. Problem is I can't figure out just what it is, thus my disappointment in it.

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  22. My difficulty is that I'm not quite sure what the purposes of TUW were.

    Well, I guess my view of the project may be skewed from hanging out on the Troll Lord Games forums and what I read in the Yggsburgh campaign setting and Dark Chateau, but it always seemed fairly clear to me that the purpose was to produce a playable version of Castle Greyhawk. Oblique references to the Greyhawk campaign setting and insights into traditional dungeon crawling always seemed incidental to me.

    I do not think it was ever more complex than that, and the finished product seems entirely in keeping with the first rumours of the project back in OD&Dities #10 (2003, pp. 45-6).

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  23. Being one who assisted (in minor ways) Gary with many of his projects, and also a friend, I always kind of wondered why Gary chose to "go back" to Castle (Greyhawk). I never really discussed this with him at length.

    It's sort of a different direction, especially if you've studied Gary Gygax's creations over the years. Gary was never really one to look "backward". After he lost control of TSR, he worked on a new game. When he lost ownership of THAT game he moved on yet again. He would always reinvent himself, going so far as to change actual terminology for what is has become the de facto common nomenclature for fantasy games--for instance, PCs are "Heroic Personages" in DJ, "Avatars" in LA.

    Granted, there were some "dreams" of this. He made mention of Dunfalcon and some hints, but AFAIK he was never really serious about this, not until around 2003 or 2004 or so. There was talk of reunion with WoTC, but that was really only apparent with Atkinson at WoTC and his departure, as well as Gary's growing dislike for the new d20 engine put a fork in that plan. As much as fans wanted Gary back with D&D and Greyhawk, it wasn't really something he was too interested in.

    I'm only speculating here as to his motivations, so I'm just trying to make and educated guess here--I could be off base by a lot, so I'm prefacing it with "caution"--because I know his feelings on a lot of other subjects.

    I speculate that Gary did this more or less as a favor to the Trolls. I believe Steve came up with the idea of C&C, and pitched it to Gary. To be good in the market, C&C would need some endorsement, and what better way than Castle Zagyg, Gary's unwritten "legend". I think Gary agreed in part because he wanted some elements of 1st Edition AD&D or OD&D to survive.

    However, there were two things Gary couldn't predict. First of all, he didn't realize that his own health would start hurting. After the Stroke and Heart Attack (which, if I remember correctly, I think happened a few months after CZ was solicited), Gary had to take it easy. He still had his faculties and intellect, but he did reduce his output greatly, at least to my knowledge. I mean, he even had to give up being a weekly Game Master at the table.

    Then Rob left the project suddenly which hurt it. I'm pretty sure Gary wouldn't have agreed to the project if he had thought Rob would cancel on him. Gary still had a lot of knowledge about the castle, and could have slogged on faster if he didn't have to cut down his output, but after that Gary really needed a co-writer to get this project on schedule.

    Some fans might have thought it would be okay for Gary to cancel the project. However, Gary had a sense of honor and duty and I doubt he would cancel after the big solicitation, as it would be a blow to TLG. It would also make it seem like Rob was the "brains" behind it, something Gary would protest and would not be true.

    I was involved in Yggsburg and I saw and agreed with Gary felt it was necessary because CZ needed a "home base", so I disagree with the criticism about Yggsburg being a "distraction". I do think the expansion wasn't really necessary--maybe it was a way to keep products coming because development of the castle would take time.

    Ironically, I wasn't really involved in Upper Works because (a) I was limited in time and wanted to help Gary with LA instead, since I felt that was his real passion, (b) I felt CZ would have less pure EGG through the use of co-writers.

    I do know Gary didn't want this to be a "nostalgia" project and I doubt he would have wanted the format being suggested here.

    I don't know what will become of Castle Zagyg now. Unlike LA, which has unpublished work that just needs minor edits, I suspect the CZ product would need a lot of fleshing out.

    One thing people haven't considered is that maybe Castle Zagyg might end up becoming something like a computer game. Gary had always wanted to have a computer game published--he spent a lot of time on Hunters of Ralk, which was never published due to Cyberdreams going under. LA was supposed to be turned into a MMORPG, but it fell down under the massive competition in that development arena. (I don't count ToEE, since while it was faithful to the original dungeon, it wasn't something that directly benefited Gary).

    I could see with renewed interest after Gary's death for CZ to be published as a computer game with perhaps LA rules used. While the Grognards might scream and gnash at this prospect--I can say something like this would be within the boundaries of "what Gary wanted", as he always wanted to be able to use LA in CZ, as well as get a computer game developed.

    I'm almost certain it's not gonna get sold back to WoTC or use 4e rules.

    --JRT

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  24. I speculate that Gary did this more or less as a favor to the Trolls. I believe Steve came up with the idea of C&C, and pitched it to Gary. To be good in the market, C&C would need some endorsement, and what better way than Castle Zagyg, Gary's unwritten "legend". I think Gary agreed in part because he wanted some elements of 1st Edition AD&D or OD&D to survive.

    I think you are completely off base here. Gygax and Kuntz definitely pitched Castle Zagyg to more than one company, including Kenzer. Prior to the advent of C&C, Gygax was considering D20 or a "generic system". His thoughts on the subject appear in the above referenced issue of OD&Dities, in the wake of a lengthy two part interview.

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  25. Ah, okay. I never saw that interview. I'm also starting to remember some of these discussions he was having about this.
    I do remember him chastising me a bit when I suggested that Rob might not want to deal with dual stats in Lejendary Adventures mode. Of course he never went in that direction).

    I still kind of wonder why Gary chose to look back on the old D&D scenario, since he sort of moved on.

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  26. I didn't come to D&D until 1989. A few months after I first started slinging dice, I heard about Castle Greyhawk. The hints and rumors of its existence filled my imagination and I went looking for it... and looking for it... and looking for it...

    And, of course, I never found it.

    The EX modules are legitimate artifacts from that campaign, but they are antithetical counterpoints to it. They are expressly a non-representative sampling.

    The actual CASTLE GREYHAWK product, of course, is a joke.

    GREYHAWK RUINS is an excellent product, but it's not actually the Castle.

    And so it goes.

    THE UPPER WORKS join these previous failed efforts. It is similar to the EX products in mind -- bearing a stamp of authenticity, but being almost tangential to what is truly desired: The dungeons beneath the castle.

    There's part of me that has come to believe it might be better to never know what those dungeons were truly like. They are a cipher onto which we write our own vision.

    But, OTOH, I would still dearly like to see it.

    If I had my druthers, this is what I would like to see: Take Gygax's notes and produce a finished, polished product. This would almost certainly need to be a gestalt of some sort, but it should be as faithful as possible while still being a finished, usable product.

    But, as part of that product, scan in Gygax's original notes and maps. Package them on a CD. Include it in the product.

    If Gygax were still alive, I wouldn't necessarily advocate for the release of those notes. But we've tragically lost his bright light.

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  27. Hey I'm content with reconstructing the castle this way - I think it'll make for much of the spirit of what the castle should have been :

    CZ:UW and for the dungeons below Level 2, The amazing fan piece known as "WG13 The Castle of the Mad Archmage."

    Along with RJK's The Original Bottle City and The Living Room (when they're appropriately encountered) and perhaps the EX1 and EX2 pieces if needed.

    Talk about integration.

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  28. Thanks for the great review, James.

    I was tempted to buy this on eBay for $400, but I think I'll give it a miss. For a collector's item, I can spend some crazy money, but not THAT much.

    Unfortunately, we may never see the dungeon ever published now... it doesn't look like Gygax Games is doing a thing.

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