27 July 2017

The Many Levels of Castle Greyhawk - Part 1

Since 27 July is Gary Gygax's birthday, and has been heralded as Gary Gygax Day in the old-school gaming communities (or at least social media), it seemed an apt date to discuss one of my favorite AD&D subjects, Castle Greyhawk

In slides I prepared for the The History and Development of Castle Greyhawk Seminar that Paul Stormberg, Jeffrey Talanian, and I hosted at GaryCon V in 2013, I built upon the then-recent re-discovery of Gary's Europa article that detailed the Castle Greyhawk dungeon levels in order, as well as other Castle Greyhawk sources---some commonly known, others commonly overlooked. 

Further analysis and summaries about some of the levels and keys, encounters, and play summaries from Castle Greyhawk has been conducted at the Knights & Knaves Alehouse, Zenopus Archives, Dragonsfoot, Random Wizard (now gone, but thankfully still readable via the Internet Archive), Sean at Power Score (two separate links there, FYI), in Greyhawk Grognard's Greyhawk Lore collection, and by Michael Mornard via Paul at the Blog of Holding.  Other good analyses and anecdotes are out there, so if you have a favorite I've not referenced, please mention it in the comments.

Since then, three additional and noteworthy sources have recently come to light:
  • An unpublished letter between Gary Gygax and Steven Chenault, dating from during their early efforts to organize the Castle Zagyg project 
  • I recently organized the notes from my many letters and phone conversations with Rob Kuntz, dating from 1987 when we first met, up through the present-day; the notes fill three looseleaf binders thus far, and while organizing them, I flagged some discussions specifically relevant to Castle Greyhawk and ERK
I examine the first of these new sources in detail below (within the context of the Castles and their Dungeons), and will address the Castle Zagyg letter, and the analysis of my RJK notes in future posts.   

The El Raja Key::Castle Greyhawk Connections

In addition to providing excellent scans, historical introductions, and insights into 13 dungeon levels from ERK and 17 levels of the Expanded Greyhawk Castle, Rob Kuntz's El Raja Key Archive also included a dungeon level that was brand-new to me: the Expanded Castle Greyhawk Core Level 5 - Sealed Tomb Level.  While initially this might not sound like a big deal, I've had access to most of the contents of the ERK Archive for years, so seeing a new level for the first time was quite a treat for me personally!

I couldn't pass up this picture when driving past a local construction site the other day:  the pallets are labelled with "OldCastle36" and I thought the layered view was a nice analogy for stacked dungeon levels ;)


In addition, the Archive explicitly maps, for the first time, the relationships between the two castles' dungeon levels:
  • Mapping the relationships between Rob's original El Raja Key dungeon levels and their placement in the Expanded Castle Greyhawk yields:
    • ECG (Somewhere on) Level 2, Alternate 16 - LGGC-1 Bottle City (Black Blade, 2014)
    • ERK 02 → ECG Core level 2 - Invisible Maze Level
    • ERK 04 → ECG Core Level 3 - Gem Room & Crypts
    • ERK 05 → ECG West Level 5 - Gallery Level
    • ERK 06 → ECG Core Level 6 - Black Pudding Door Keeper Level
    • ERK 10 → ECG Core Level 7 - Tsojconth Level (Lost Caverns of Tsojconth, Metro Detroit Gamers 1976)
    • ERK 07 → ECG West Level 7 - Barracks Level
    • ERK 07.5 → ECG Core Level 7.5 - Black Reservoir (see also Gygax's 1975 short story from El Conquistador)
    • It sounds like the Orcky level was in the Expanded Castle too, but only the rough image is included in the Archive, not the completed map
  • These levels remained native to Castle El Raja Key, and were not incorporated into the Expanded Greyhawk Castle:
    • ERK Upper Works
    • ERK Level 01
    • ERK Level 03
    • ERK Level 05.5
    • ERK Level 08
    • ERK Level 09
    • ERK Level 11
  • The following additional levels were created new for the Expanded Castle Greyhawk, and were never part of the Original Castle or of Castle El Raja Key:
    • ECG East Level 3 Split - Garden & Giant's Pool Hall Level
    • Core Level 5 - Sealed Tomb Level
    • ECG East Level 8 - Machine Level; Rob wrote a wonderful introduction to this dungeon on his Lord of the Green Dragons blog
    • ECG Core Level 11 - Entrance to Oz
    • ECG Core Level 12 - Boreal Level
    • ECG Core Level 13 - Entrance to Asgard, Melnibone, and Dying Earth
    • ECG Core Level 14 - Orb, Sceptre, and Crown Level
    • ECG Core Level 18 - Dragon Level
    • ECG Core (Special) - The Living Room (Pied Piper Publishing, 2008)
  • The following extra-planar levels were known to be in the Original Castle (or at least accessed from it), and were never part of Castle El Raja Key; they may or may not have been placed in the Expanded Castle (unknown, at this time): 
    • Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass 
      • GC S8/X1  → GC1 Dungeonland EX1 Dungeonland (TSR) 
      • GC S8/X2 → GC2 Land Beyond the Magic Mirror EX2 Land Beyond the Magic Mirror (TSR) 
    • Asgard 
    • Barsoom level 
    • City of the Gods (presumably set in Blackmoor) 
    • Dirdir level 
    • Dying Earth  
    • Melniboné 
    • Nazi Germany (see "Sturmgeschutz and Sorcery" in SR#05, although this was more likely a one-off Chainmail game vs. a D&D game) 
    • Oz 
    • Skull Island/King Kong level (WG6 Isle of the Ape, TSR 1986) 
    • Starship Warden level (see Gygax's "Faceless Gods and Clockwork Monsters" in TD#17)
  • Other levels are known to exist, but their placement in the Original Castle vs. El Raja Key vs. the Expanded Castle vs. Castle Zagyg remains unknown outside of the original players, at this time:
    • Rob Kuntz's Greek level ("Horsing Around")
    • Teeth of Barkash Nor (originally designed as another extraplanar adventure by EGG and later developed by Bill Silvey and Scott Gregg)
    • The three levels from WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure (TSR, 1984)

More analysis and discussion will undoubtedly follow.  In the meanwhile, celebrate Gary Gygax, Dave Arneson, Rob Kuntz, Phil Barker, Jennell Jaquays, and their works today, this weekend, and into the future by rolling some dice, crushing some monsters for their treasure, and hearing the lamentations of your Dungeon Master! :D

Continued in The Many Levels of Castle Greyhawk - Part 2.