It begins the night a dragon falls on an off-duty adventurer. Fortunately, it's a small dragon. Unfortunately, it's connected to a big problem. Make that a huge problem: The survival of a well-known wizard belonging to the Circle of Five is at stake, but that's not the worst of it. Evil forces are attempting to infiltrate a secret fortress and unlock vast magical power, but that's not the worst, either.
The bad news? Some old enemies of civilization in the Flanaess have returned, and they've discovered a mutual interest in world domination. They have a plan to bring it about. And their plan is already underway when the little dragon appears. Worse, on this particular night, there's no one who can stop them - no one but any heroes who start this adventure and survive through its out-of-this-world climax. And they have no choice. If they fail, the City of Greyhawk and all the civilized lands of the Flanaess will get to meet some remarkable legendary figures.
Then Civilization will die. Screaming.
Return of the Eight (1998), by Roger E. Moore, was Wizards of the Coast's return to the campaign world of Greyhawk. If they were still using the old TSR campaign codes, it could easily have been WG13. It was published in May 1998.
A Return to Greyhawk. TSR abandoned the campaign world of Greyhawk rather abruptly in 1993, leaving a completed book unpublished. After that, Greyhawk sat dormant for several years. We now jump forward to 1997, when TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast. The new owners of D&D immediately started putting out the products that TSR had completed but had not been able to publish. It'd be another year before Wizards had space in their production schedule to put their own stamp on D&D.
By 1998, work was already going full bore on third edition, and that took up much of Wizards' attention, but they still made the effort to produce some supplements of their own during AD&D's final two years. And that started with a return to Greyhawk. The reason was simple: Greyhawk had fans at Wizards, prime among them Peter Adkison, who two years later would make it the "default" setting for 3e. The 1998 return of Greyhawk was just a first step.
Ending the Third Era. One of the main purposes of Return of the Eight was to end the "From the Ashes" era (1992-1993) of Greyhawk publication, which Carl Sargent had adeptly headed. That era's Greyhawk books had depicted a darker Greyhawk falling toward evil. Worse, the powerful Circle of Eight had been weakened tremendously by the betrayal of Rary and his murders of Otiluke and Tenser, as described in From the Ashes (1992).
Return of the Eight puts Greyhawk back on the path to a brighter future by resurrecting Tenser and rebuilding the Circle of Eight with new members.
Beginning the Fourth Era. Return of the Eight also marked the start of the fourth major era of Greyhawk publication, following the Gygax-era adventures (1978-1987); a post-Gygax revitalization (1988-1990); and the Wars/Ashes era (1991-1993). This fourth era ran through 2000.
To signify this return, Return of the Eight updated the trade dress that had been used for Greyhawk supplements since the publication of Greyhawk Adventures (1988). The new trade dress keeps the stone-cut word "Greyhawk" but abandons the word "Adventures"; it also adds a pillared frame. This new dress would be used until 2000.
Expanding Greyhawk. Return of the Eight is not just a return to the campaign world of Greyhawk, but also a return to the densely woven web of characters and stories that filled Greyhawk stories in TSR's earlier days. Thus, Warnes Starcoat, one of the new members of the Circle of Eight, had previously appeared in WG6: "Isle of the Ape" (1986), while the villainous Iggwilv was first mentioned back in S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (1982). However, Moore doesn't ignore more recent publications. For example, he introduces a Greyhawk Dragon, a monster type that first appeared in Greyhawk Adventures (1989).
Return of the Eight also resurrects the feel of the earliest Greyhawk adventures. Though the module is very metaplot heavy, it includes some really nasty dungeons. One of the dungeons features an elevator, the sort of science-fantasy touch that was easy to find in some of the earliest D&D dungeons.
The Adventure Continues. Two more books immediately followed during the Greyhawk rebirth of 1998: Greyhawk Player's Guide (1998) and Greyhwak: The Adventure Begins (1998).
About the Creators. Long-time Dragon and Dungeon editor Roger E. Moore hasn't written a lot of RPG supplements. His three major AD&D books all came after he hired on to Wizards of the Coast in 1997. His next would be The Adventure Begins (1998) - the third book in the Greyhawk rebirth, published just two months after Return of the Eight.
Erik Mona is credited with "research assistance" on Return of the Eight. To that point, he had been editor of the online Oerth Journal from #1 (May 1995) to #7 (June 1998). In his last issue, written shortly after Return of the Eight's release, Mona said that he'd achieved what he wanted to do with the Journal, including "the relaunch of the World of Greyhawk." Mona probably got to know Moore within the pages of the Journal, since Moore contributed some dense Greyhawk articles for issues #3 (March 1996) and #4 (August 1996). Mona would later go on work for Paizo, where he brought Greyhawk back (again) through Dungeon's adventure paths.
About the Product Historian
The history of this product was researched and written by Shannon Appelcline, 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.