One cannot properly introduce a supplement to an existing body of rules, which already contain both a foreword and an introduction; yet it is absolutely necessary to make certain that the prospective buyer understands that this volume cannot stand by itself.
It is expressly written to augment the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS rules set, and if you do not possess the set there is no point in buying this supplemental booklet alone. However, it does no harm to read further, it is hoped that if you do skim through the pages, which follow you, will become so interested as to buy both "D & D" and this addition! If you enjoy fantasy you will never be sorry you were introduced to the swords and sorcery of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS games.
If you already own a set of "D & D" then buy this booklet right now, for what is herein adds immeasurably to the existing game. There are new characters, new abilities, more spells to use, a horde of new monsters, heaps of new magical treasure, and various additions to the suggestions and rules for adventuring above and below the ground."
This PDF is drawn from the Original Edition Premium Reprint, which included new cover art and updated layout.
D&D Supplement I: Greyhawk (1975), by Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz, is the first of four supplements for the OD&D game. It was published in March 1975.
Origins (I): Early Products. Following the publication of OD&D (1975), the young TSR focused on producing other wargames such as Tricolor (1974), Warriors of Mars (1974), and Star Probe (1975). However, Gygax was also well-aware of the expandability of D&D. Though he wasn't producing new D&D products yet for TSR, he was writing articles for Jim Lurvey's Great Plains Game Players Newsletter that began to extend and revise the rules of the D&D game.
This dynamic been to change in January 1975. By that point, TSR had sold out of the first printing of 1,000 copies of OD&D. Meanwhile they'd also published The Strategic Review #1 (January 1975), a six-page newsletter where they for the first time ever printed official D&D expansions, including a new monster called the mind flayer and a solo dungeon system. It pointed the way toward more substantive supplements in the near future …
Origins (II): Pushing On. Tragedy struck TSR at the end of January when President Don Kaye died. Down the road, this would eventually be the root cause of Gygax losing control of his company … but for now TSR and OD&D kept rolling on. In The Strategic Review, Gygax said, "DUNGEONS & DRAGONS supplement booklets are still high on our priority list, and we should be getting at least one off sometime before GenCon." That first book was Greyhawk, which appeared in in March as "the first of a long series of periodic supplements".
About the Book: Greyhawk is very much an expansion of the original OD&D box (1974). In fact, it's organized like the original box, with different sections of the booklet explicitly expanding the three OD&D booklets: "Men & Magic", "Monsters & Treasure", and "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures". The first two sections take up the majority of the 68-page digest-sized book.
Expanding D&D: The Complete Rules. Though the OD&D boxed set technically contains the complete rules for OD&D, most modern players would not recognize it. That's because it wasn't until the Greyhawk supplement that OD&D really settled into its modern and recognizable form. Even at the time, Gygax realized that it was a tightly complementary book, saying that it contained
the "rest of the stuff" that he'd wanted to include in OD&D.
Greyhawk thus contains the fourth and final core class for D&D (the thief), the complete standalone combat rules, the rest of the classic spells (ascending to 7th level for clerics and 9th level for magic-users), and many of the evocative classic magic items of the game (such as vorpal blades, rings of shooting stars, potions of extra-healing, rods of rulership, and bracers of defense).
Expanding D&D: Forgotten Heroes. The thief was the great missing class from OD&D. The idea appears to have originated in southern California, while Gygax's intepretation of the class debuted in Game Players Newsletter #9 (June 1974). Now it made its canonical appearance in an official TSR publication in a slightly revised form.
Greyhawk also introduces the paladin, which was notable for being OD&D's first "subclass", a variant of an existing class (the fighting man). Subclasses would proliferate throughout OD&D and AD&D 1e (1977-1979); they'd be replaced in AD&D 2e (1989) with class categories instead of hierarchies.
One other classic D&D class doesn't quite make it: the druid. He appears solely as a monster!
Expanding D&D: The Characteristics. Greyhawk makes considerable expansions to abilities, better defining characters by allowing these characteristics to make more of a difference in play.
However its biggest change is probably to armor class: the descending range from "9" to "2" in OD&D was a bit strange, but now it keeps on going as low as "-8". In later years, many players would find the range dropping down into negative numbers a bit confusing, but it would remaining in place until the release of D&D 3e (2000).
Expanding D&D: The Combat. The most important update in Greyhawk is the introduction of D&D's first fully-featured combat system of its own, expanding on the just barely-there "alternative combat system" in the original rules. Now the "alternative combat system" — meaning an alternative to Chainmail (1971) — gets a full six pages of descriptions. There actually aren't many new rules. Most of the space is spent better describing attacks: some monsters now get multiple attacks; while monsters and weapons both vary their damage, instead of always doing 1d6.
About the Components: The Platonic Dice. Greyhawk does a good job of making made better use of the polyhedron dice sold for use with D&D. In OD&D everything except the d6 and the d20 was used very lightly. Now, weapons do from 1d4 to 2d12 damage, while monsters might do 5d8 or 1d12. It was a good argument for buying D&D's polyhedron dice, which had seemed pretty superfluous previously (other than the all-important 1d20).
Introducing the World of Greyhawk: The name of this supplement suggests that it'll reveal the world of Greyhawk, Gygax's campaign world from his days in Lake Geneva … but it doesn't. Gygax used the name of his setting for this supplement, but little more. In fact there are just three reference to the actual campaign world. At one point the text states: "'Greyhawk' had a fountain on its second level which issued endless numbers of snakes." There's also a picture of "The Great Stone Face, Enigma of Greyhawk." For many early players, these two references would be the full extend of the information on Greyhawk Castle for years. The third reference, to a "Living Room" of animate furniture, didn't mention that it was part of Castle Greyhawk, but Rob Kuntz would much eventually detail it in "The Living Room" (2007).
Gygax would later explain the omission, saying that he "had assumed most DMs would far [prefer] to use their own world settings", a common sentiment among the first RPG publishers. He also stated that "as I was running a game with a large number of players involved, I really didn't want to supply them with the whole world on a platter."
Exploring the Great Wheel. Some of the spells in Greyhawk expand upon OD&D's hints of a greater cosmology. Astral Spell talks for the first time about the astral plane, while Gate talks mentions cosmic portals. Though ethereal magic items appear, they just put characters "out of phase"; the ethereal plane didn't exist yet.
Monsters of Note. OD&D only introduced a few of D&D's iconic monsters, but more appeared in Greyhawk. The most notable is Terry Kuntz's beholder, which appears on the cover of Greyhawk and was called a "sphere of doom" on the original artwork.
Other iconic creatures include: blink dogs, bugbears, carrion crawlers, displacer beasts, doppelgangers, gelatinous cubes, a set of 3 golems, hell hounds, liches, ogre magi, owl bears, phase spiders, rust monsters, shadows, stirges, storm giants, umber hulks, and will o' the wisps. Bugbears get the award for the most bizarre illustration: they have a pumpkin head in this early depiction! Meanwhile, the displacer beasts get the award for weirdest origin, as they are derived from an A.E. Van Vogt story.
Dragons also get great attention. The metallic dragons are filled out with brass, bronze, copper, and silver specimens, and the dragons also get their lawful king and chaotic king. They're called simply the Platinum Dragon and the Chromatic Dragon, without personal names.
About the Creators. Gary Gygax was of course the co-creator of D&D, while Rob Kuntz was his co-GM for their Castle Greyhawk campaign.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, the editor-in-chief of RPGnet and the author of Designers & Dragons - a history of the roleplaying industry told one company at a time. Please feel free to mail corrections, comments, and additions to firstname.lastname@example.org.