(Spoilers alert...) Thanks to KenHR, who recommended Saga of Old City as possibly more to my liking then the last Greyhawk book I read, Sea of Death. He was right, this was definitely more of what I'd hoped for in a book by Gygax - a rambling series of mini-adventures in a D&D-like style. We follow the desperately poor and bullied Gord as a boy through his small victories that culminate in him becoming a skilled and wealthy swordsman. At the end of the book, Gord returns to the ruins of his home in the slums of Greyhawk to recover a personal possession. There he confronts the thugs and their leader who had bullied him at a young age and delivers their comeuppance.
My favorite part about this book is the overwhelming feeling that it’s a rags to riches story - the American dream is fulfilled in the Wild West, albeit here in a fantasy setting. The idea that a person (or one’s character in the game) can come from nothing and with courage, determination, and a bit of luck, become powerful and wise.
That’s why the last page was slightly upsetting. “Now there was nothing left undone, nothing more to prove, no more of the old - except this cherished possession, the box that old Leena had once told him was somehow tied to the mystery of Gord’s parentage.” What this foreshadows is that later in the series, Gord will discover that he’s really Carl, descendant of a demigod. What bums me about this is that it sort of chucks the whole idea of your genes or early station in life as not being important to your ultimate destiny.
I don’t want to make too much of it, but I see this as encouraging the sort of pre-destined adventure outcome that others have told me becomes a more frequent occurrence after 1e. I know, there’s Gygax the game designer and Gygax the novelist, and this is just a story, but maybe the trajectory of the game system can be compared to these novels somehow.
I’ll see what develops in the next book in the series. Reading them out of order might have been illuminating in its own way.
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