Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Evocative Quote

The eternal war between Law and Chaos flared often in Greyhawk. It was in a manner of speaking a "free city"--since it had no one overlord to hold if firmly to his will. For that reason it had become a city of masterless men, a point from which many expeditions, privately conceived and planned for the despoiling of ancient treasures, would set out, having recruited the members from just such masterless men as Milo himself, or perhaps the berserker only an arm's length away.
--Andre Norton, Quag Keep (1978)

11 comments:

  1. Ya see how awesome the old school is? I mean is there anything in the new school of gaming with such grit? I play both old and new but I really have the best times with cool stuff like this!

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  2. Really makes you wonder if Norton understood what a medieval "Free City" was?

    ...since it had no one overlord to hold if firmly to his will.

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  3. I only read the sequel, "Return to Quag Keep" and I have to say that it wasn't the most appealing book to me. She does, however, discuss in some detail her playing D&D with Gygax (and her children, if I remember the story right).

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  4. @Thalmen: I don't know what the medieval definition of "free city" is, but I guess the one given by Norton about Greyhwak is correct, as we can read on page 4 of "Greyhawk: Folk, Feuds, and Factions":

    The Free City is ruled by a Directing Oligarchy-a group of technically coequal rulers, currently numebering 16 members.

    Saludos!

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  5. @Gabriel

    The defining characteristic of a "free city" has nothing to do with its form of internal government, or lack of central authority. It is an independent city-state, "free" in the sense that it is not part of a larger nation. It certainly isn't just a city of masterless men. From dictionary.com:

    –noun a city having an independent government and forming a sovereign state by itself.

    Andre Norton seems to think that a free city is one in a state of chaos where there is no effective central control. By this definition many large American cities would fit the bill. Greyhawk (as described by EGG in the WoG folio or box, at least, not idea about QK), however, would not.

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  6. C'mon guys, this isn't about the semantics. This is about the flavor.

    This is a city where anything can happen, where today's beggar can become tomorrow's prince and vice-versa. A magnet for people of ambition because a place this wild can't stop dreams anymore than an anthill could stop a flood. In fact, a place this wild only sets these dreams on fire, making even the most outlandish ambitions seem possible.

    Throw out your dictionaries, and unclench the analytical part of your brain, and you will see one free city.

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  7. @ strangevistas: Return to Quag Keep is vastly inferior to its precursor. You should give Quag Keep a chance.

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  8. Throw out your dictionaries, and unclench the analytical part of your brain, and you will see one free city.

    Fair enough. I guess I just don't find the passage all that intriguing. I grok that it captures the "feel" of a freewheeling city of adventurers in sort of a gold rush/boomtown atmosphere. What I don't get the transition from the "eternal war between Law and Chaos" and the rather prosaic bit about recruiting adventurers at the end of the paragraph. Is there supposed to be some relationship between the two?

    I suppose I should give it a chance, but even the original QK isn't supposed to be very good from what I've heard. It does merit some historical attention, of course, being the first RPG tie-in novel.

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  10. What I don't get the transition from the "eternal war between Law and Chaos" and the rather prosaic bit about recruiting adventurers at the end of the paragraph.

    What I'm getting is that Greyhawk's untamed nature, which makes it a hotbed of adventure, is due to a kind of a self-perpetuating cycle of being a focus for the struggles between Law and Chaos?

    Law and Chaos struggle in Greyhawk because it's a wild place; it's a wild place because Law and Chaos struggle here?

    It is a rough transition, isn't it?

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