Enter the infamous ruins of Castle Greyhawk, the most formidable and expansive dungeon on Oerth. Its mazes and catacombs have drawn hundreds of adventurers from around the Flanaess. They are intrigued by tales of its riches, undaunted by its reputation for death in countless unspeakable ways. Getting there is no trick-it's a well-traveled path. The trick is getting in and out again with your own hide intact!
Try your hand at the busiest dungeon ever created. There are more than two dozen levels of horror and treasures. Run into brutal foes and gain uncountable wealth-nearly 1,000 separate room descriptions in all!
Greyhawk Ruins is a complete guide to the most famous dungeon in the World of Greyhawk campaign setting. All you will need is the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd edition role-playing game, nerves of steel, and the resolve to challenge the puzzles and powers the ruins have to offer!
Greyhawk Ruins is designed for five to seven characters of levels 2 to 15.
WGR1: "Greyhawk Ruins" (1990), by Timothy B. Brown and Blake Mobley is the first book in the "WGR" series of World of Greyhawk References. It was published in July 1990.
Introducing the "WGR" Series. The original "WG" adventure series contained the first AD&D adventures that were explicitly branded for a game world. They began with WG4: "The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun" (1982) and contined through the edition-changing WG8: "Fate of Istus" (1989). The line then made the jump to AD&D 2e with WG9: "Gargoyle" (1989) and was extensively supported through WG12: "Vale of the Mage" (1989).
In 1990, TSR decided to revamp its module codes to separate "A" Adventures and "R" References. The new Greyhawk adventures began in March with WGA1: "Falcon's Revenge" (1990), while the new Greyhawk references began in July with WGR1: "Greyhawk Ruins" (1990). "Greyhawk Ruins" was (oddly) also an adventure, but presumably the powers-that-be decided it was so iconic and so central to the world of Greyhawk that it deserved a place in the "R" series.
After "Greyhawk Ruins", the "WGR" code went on hiatus for two years, until the publication of WGR2: "Treasures of Greyhawk" (1992).
The History of Castle Greyhawk. Castle Greyhawk is the second oldest D&D dungeon in existence, following in the footsteps of Dave Arneson's Castle Blackmoor. Gygax's original Castle Greyhawk had 13 levels, from the Vaults and Dungeons down through the Caves and Caverns and eventually to the Maze of the Archmage Zagig. Gygax later brought in friend Rob Kuntz to help run the Greyhawk campaign, and with him came new dungeon levels imported from Kuntz's own Castle El Raja Key. Even after that, the Castle's dungeons continued to grow. By the time the campaign came to an end in 1985, Castle Greyhawk had somewhere between 50 and 70 levels (depending on who you ask).
However, TSR readers never got to see Gygax's Castle Greyhawk. He hinted at it in many early products, such as the Dungeon Master Guide (1979), which mentioned levels based on Greek mythology, on King Kong, and on Jack Vance's Planet of Adventure. He even began promising publication of the Castle as early as 1980. Later in the '80s, TSR published three "demiplanes" that were connected to Castle Greyhawk: EX1: "Dungeonland" (1983), EX2: "The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" (1983), and WG6: "Isle of the Ape" (1985) — the last being the aforementioned King Kong level. In the same time period, TSR also published the related WG5: "Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure" (1984), which was more directly based on Kuntz's original campaign.
And that was all that TSR readers ever got to see of Gary Gygax and Rob Kuntz's Castle Greyhawk. Gygax was forced out of the company in 1985, and when TSR published WG7: Castle Greyhawk (1988) a few years later, it was an entirely farcical adventure that some think was a purposefully mockery of Gygax's dungeon.
By 1989, things had changed, and TSR was now making a heavy push on a second wave of Greyhawk products. This included piles of adventures and also The City of Greyhawk (1989), a hefty boxed set that extensively detailed the Free City. The release of a serious description of the Castle was an obvious next step — and exactly what TSR did in 1990. The farcical WG7 was never mentioned within the new "Greyhawk Ruins" book, presumably because it was entirely superseded.
Though Brown and Mobley were the designers of "Greyhawk Ruins", they got some help from old-timers like James M. Ward, who had played in Gygax and Kuntz's Castle Greyhawk and so provided insight into creating a dungeon that felt like the original.
Adventuring Tropes. Castle Blackmoor, Castle Greyhawk, and Castle El Raja Key all contained enormous subterranean domains that could support very long-running campaigns where players would venture time and again into the same dungeons, delving ever deeper. These "megadungeons" were important to the origin of the roleplaying hobby, but they were totally unrepresented in the published output of the '70s and '80s.
That changed in 1990 with the publication of "Greyhawk Ruins". Shortly afterward, TSR would publish their second megadungeon: the Forgotten Realms' Undermountain, which appeared in The Ruins of Undermountain (1991) and The Ruins of Undermountan II: The Deep Levels (1994). However, that was pretty much it for the 2e era, which left megadungons a rare commodity throughout the '90s. They've become a bit more common in the '00s, primarily thanks to the d20 trademark license and to the OSR movement. More recent megadungeons of note include Necromancer Games' Rappan Athuk (2001-2002, 2012), Goodman Games' Castle Whiterock (2007), and BRW Games' Castle of the Mad Archmage (2009-2010, 2014).
Mapping Tropes. The dungeons of "Greyhawk Ruins" are the sort of "architectural dungeons" that Tracy Hickman introduced to TSR in adventures like I6: "Ravenloft" (1983) and DL1: "Dragons of Despair" (1984). There are in fact three different dungeons dropping down beneath the Castle, and they have interesting interconnections among them.
Each individual level also tends to have lots of opportunities to move upward and downward resulting in maps with numerous elevations. These elevation changes are color-coded in the adventure, but TSR neglected to mention that in the first printing of the adventure, leaving readers somewhat befuddled. Each different color on the maps represents a 5' change in elevation. From highest to lowest they are: red, pink, orange, yellow, pastel yellow, grayish olive green, olive green, dark purple, and grayish purple.
Expanding Greyhawk. "Greyhawk Ruins" is the adventure/reference that finally revealed the most important dungeon in Oerth: Castle Greyhawk. However, many Castle Greyhawk elements that you might have expected to see (such as the Great Stone Enigma or the connections to the various published demilevels) are missing due to the dungeon's long and varied history. Nonetheless "Greyhawk Ruins" became the official canonical version of the dungeon. It was also a nice complement to The City of Greyhawk; together they created a nexus of adventure in central Oerth.
"Greyhawk Ruins" also does its best to built on classic Greyhawk lore, so it's full of references to (and cameos from) many Greyhawk NPCs such as Zagig, Iuz, Mordenkainen, and Bigby.
Monsters of Note. The adventure is given a classic feeling in part thanks to its inclusion of many monsters from the Fiend Folio (1981) and Monster Manual II (1983) that had not previously been converted to AD&D 2e. Among them are: caryatid columns, juggernauts, meenlocks, mephits, and mustard jellies.
Future History. Wizards of the Coast returned to this version of Castle Greyhawk in Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk (2008), which revised some of the levels from "Greyhawk Ruins" and also invented new ones. The published adventure was supported by a four-part series of Living Greyhawk events: "Ruins of Discovery" (2007), "Into the Silent Halls" (2007), "Crypts of the Forgotten" (2008), and "Shatterstone" (2008).
Meanwhile,the original creators of Castle Greyhawk published their own versions of the settings in the '00s. Troll Lord Games released a few volumes of "Castle Zagyg" (2005-2008), a version of the Greyhawk dungeons that was being recreated under the oversight over Gary Gygax. Unfortunately, his death brought the project to a premature end. Simultaneously, Rob Kuntz published two of his contributions to the original Castle Greyhawk through his own publishing company: RJK1: "Bottle City" (2007) and
"The Original Living Room" (2007).
About the Creators. Brown had previously written extensively for GDW in the '80s; this was his first major work for TSR and his only Greyhawk work. "Greyhawk Ruins" was also Mobley's first work for TSR (and in fact his first published RPG work). He would write for a few different TSR lines from 1990-1992, but like Brown he didn't return to Oerth.
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.