On Is Ed Greenwood the Devil?

Of course not!

He's an awesome person, and not in a figurative sense. I would certainly be struck with awe when meeting him. He's written hundreds of books, and his games and settings have been used by people the world over to have fun. There are parts of the Forgotten Realms that are fascinating.

But fundamentally he is an author.
"I started creating the Realms in 1966 (when, yes, I was six), as a setting for short stories featuring Mirt the Moneylender (moving along the Sword Coast from city to city, a step ahead of creditors, rivals, and local authorities). As a D&D game setting, the published-by-TSR (and later also by Jake, in an issue of Gameplay magazine) Realms dates from 1979." - Ed Greenwood

This makes for problems when running a game.

Some examples:
"The corpse seems to stare at you. its head cocked slightly to one side. Suddenly two points of rapidly expanding, glittering light appear in the dark eye-sockets of its shriveled dead, dead face. The skeletal figure speaks in a loud, dry voice.
"Welcome, adventurers. Put aside your weapons and speak in peace if you would -- I mean you no harm. I've waited so very long for someone to find me. I'm looking for a few true adventurers -- to become my friends."
Read the above text even if the PCs immediately attack the figure from a distance. All initial PC missile or magic attacks will be deflected or dissipated harmlessly before they reach the seated figure as they trigger, encounter, and exhaust a spell cast long ago, which englobes the seat in combined Shield and Globe of Invulnerability spells. - Lost Ships page 7
If the PCs elect to do nothing about the Ghost Knight, they will soon be unable to sleep -- whenever they close their eyes, they will see his angry-faced, shining image striding toward them, sword drawn.
This vision continues regardless of spells, magical barriers or cures, planar travel, and so on, until the sleepless exhausted PCs lay the Ghost Knight to rest by revisiting the alleyway in which he disappeared. - Undermountain Adventures page 2
So pretty clearly, forcing these situations is not very conducive to player agency. Players usually have expectations that they have some say in the actions of their characters. I've talked about this pretty extensively before.

In the follow up, I'll be talking about ways to use this style of play effectively while maintaining agency.

Oh, and if anyone out there still thinks I'm really railing against Ed, I'm not. I've always been a big fan. To wit, the Forgotten Realms is the most successful and widely known dungeons and dragons campaign ever created. Here's a short listing of some of his works. Note that the listing is not actually short.

The original series on Player Agency "The Quantum Ogre" is there.
Part 1 of looking at Illusionism, "On the Tacit Acceptance of Play" is there.
You're reading Part 2 of the series looking at illusionism.
Part 3 of looking at Illusionism, "On Theory Defined: Illusionism" is there.
and Part 4 of Looking at Illusionism "On Interjecting Illusionism Ingeniously" is there.


  1. At least he accounts for the fact that the PCs might opt to do something other than what the DMAuthor actually wants them to do, and provides advice on how to shoehorn/railroad the players and PCs into the 'correct' situation. How many adventures have you read and thought, "hmm, yes, BUT any players I know will have their PCs do X at that stage (normally some variant of 'kill it', 'set fire to it', or 'insult it'), rendering all that cool stuff you've written down moot - where's the advice on what to do next?"

    1. It only means it's a well-designed railroad. If our most important design goal is, however, "to avoid railroading", the samples above are still against it.

    2. Oh, I know. but at least he *considers* player [character] agency, even if he is advising how to subvert it. I've read more than a few adventures that ignore the possibility of player agency and demand that a DM railroads on the fly!

      If I'm going to railroad my players, I want to be told how to do it! ;-)

  2. Even the Devil doesn't have a beard that long.

    1. And the Devil can not say: "The Sunnnnnnnnnnnderinggggggg!" and make the walls vibrate. ;-)

  3. It sets up the articles on illusionism coming later this week!

  4. I really really like Sharanger Szeltune, from SJR1 Lost Ships. She was one of the more interesting NPCs in Spelljammer. It is a shame that the designers all did different things for SJ, as she could have returned in a sequel to I Must Go Up To The Stars Again.

    I would also have loved to have seen Ed Greenwood write a Greyhawk novel that mentioned some of the things she did in Blackmoor, back when she was alive.


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