Monday, March 2, 2009

Beginnings

“Know, sir, that we are a company of righteous fellows, most evilly disposed in one way or another by the false-knight, Baron Teric whose castlewick at Edgewood on Wild Road is the bane of freemen and a nest of caitiffs.

--The Gnome Cache (Chapter Two) by Garrison Ernst, The Dragon #2 (August 1976)
Garrison Ernst was, of course, a pseudonym of the late Gary Gygax and the fantasy serial The Gnome Cache is one of his earliest published works of fantasy fiction. Whatever its defects as literature, it's an invaluable record of the early days of the Original Campaign. The serial introduces us to Oerth, a parallel world "very similar to this earth in many ways, but ... also quite different." Over the course of its six chapters, we learn of places whose names are immediately recognizable, such as Blackmoor, as well as those whose names are close to ones we already know, such as the Great Kingdom of Thalland, and those that are more unfamiliar, such as Nehronland. We also hear of personages great and small whose names are similarly familiar, like Saint Cuthburt [sic] of the Cudgel and the villainous Baron Teric mentioned above.

It's important to bear in mind how much the Original Campaign evolved significantly over time, from its origins in the Castle & Crusade Society of the International Federation of Wargamers to the more well-known form under which it was published by TSR in 1980. As The Gnome Cache attests, even the names of places and characters evolved over time, making it sometimes difficult to determine correlations between earlier versions and those that came later. Likewise, alterations were sometimes made for publication, further muddying the waters by creating the false impression that "official" publications were fully accurate representations of characters, places, and events in the Original Campaign.

One of the things I've most enjoyed over the past year is unearthing the "secret history" of the Original Campaign. Discovering, for example, that the earliest map of the setting was based on the geography of North America, with the Free City in roughly the same position as Chicago (with whom it shares a historical penchant for political corruption), made me feel as if I were an archeologist of gaming antiquity. In a sense, I was, since much of this information had lain hidden from view for decades. For that reason, I am especially grateful to this blog's host, the Lord of Green Dragons himself, for the work he's done in contributing to not only my understanding of the Original Campaign's history, but the understanding of interested gamers everywhere. Here's hoping that the next year will bring even more of this hidden knowledge to light.

2 comments:

Lord of the Green Dragons said...

Hello James.

Well met, as it were.

It's interesting that you post the above for the simple reason only that I made mention of that very novel in a post on DF just today:
"...Who would have known that Robilar (a name EGG honored me with in his Novel "The Gnome Cache" and years before the advent of D&D) would be chosen by me the very day I rolled up this PC on EGG's kitchen table?"

Most people do not know that many of the games iconic personages, places and things took root within much of what EGG had already written and thought out before D&D's advent.

But then too, most folks do not know that this novel, as I read it page by page as he handed each to me (I used to sit in his closed study for hours and months on end while he crafted such works), was completed, though IIRC, its serialization within The Dragon was not, and for unknown reasons.

Being a student of history, as was EGG and is Arneson, I see the importance as do many, including yourself, of preserving that past knowledge by letting be known what I participated in and what I experienced. It is
true that my "grand memory" which EGG once noted me as having, has been challenged with the passing years, and some fragments really re-root again after considerable thought and discussion along various related lines. They come upon me like ghosts now, and sometimes in full force out of no where. So, it has been time for quite awhile now to get these onto paper and into History's Hands, so to speak, as I am getting no younger, even though I was young then. Time does not sit still, even for Robilar.

James Maliszewski said...

They come upon me like ghosts now, and sometimes in full force out of no where. So, it has been time for quite awhile now to get these onto paper and into History's Hands, so to speak, as I am getting no younger, even though I was young then. Time does not sit still, even for Robilar.

I very much look forward to reading what you set down. Too many memories have already been lost for my liking as it is.