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WG9 Gargoyle (1e/2e)

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Ever seen a gargoyle without its wings? It's a pretty funny sight. But don't laugh out loud in front of them-they don't think it's all that hilarious?

Gargoyle is an adventure set in the world of Greyhawk, the longest running of TSR's game worlds for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game. A pair of gargoyles wake up on morning to find their wings missing, and contact the players to help recover them. A great many AD&D players have been asking for low-level adventures suitable for beginners, and Gargoyle is the first of several planned for this year. Designed for levels 2 to 4, this adventure can be enjoyed by novices and experienced players alike.

Product History

WG9: "Gargoyle" (1989), by Dave Collins with Skip Williams, is the ninth(ish) adventure in the World of Greyhawk series. It was published in March 1989.

About the Cover. "Gargoyle" continues to shift the trade dress for the World of Greyhawk series. Though it uses the "Greyhawk Adventures" logo that premiered in WG8: Fate of Istus (1989), it places the cover's main artwork in a smaller box, similar to what was done throughout the 1e AD&D period (1977-1989). This style would be used until the release of WGR1: Greyhawk Ruins (1990) and WGA4: "Vecna Lives!" (1990), which reverted to a larger frame for the cover art.

Origins (I): A New WG. After Gary Gygax left TSR in 1985, the World of Greyhawk setting fizzled out. For three years it consisted of reprints and just two new books, WG7: Castle Greyhawk (1988) and Greyhawk Adventures (1988), the first of which was poorly received. Therefore, fans were quite excited to see the new edition of AD&D (1989) opening up with a new and serious Greyhawk adventure, WG8: Fate of Istus (1989), but it was unclear how the line would continue past that transitional module.

WG8: "Gargoyle" (1989) answered that question, with an introductory adventure designed to help new GMs run their first game and to bring new players into one of the hobby's oldest settings. It would in fact be the first of a few short, introductory adventures for Greyhawk.

Origins (II): A New Edition. The importance of Greyhawk in the new world of AD&D 2e can be seen from this adventure's positioning. It was preceded by only two other adventures, DLE1: "In Search of Dragons" (1989) in January and the aforementioned WG8: "Fate of Istus" (1989) in February. FRC2: Cruse of the Azure Bonds (1989) also appeared in March.

Generally, TSR was pushing hard on the settings of Dragonlance, the Forgotten Realms, and Greyhawk with the dawn of AD&D second edition. Greyhawk and Dragonlance both enjoyed 5 releases in 1989, while a dozen supplements appeared for the Forgotten Realms.

Origins (III): I Have No Wings, and I Must Scream. The story behind "Gargoyle" begins with Polyhedron #21 (1984), where Gary Gygax wrote an article called "Why Gargoyles Don't Have Wings but Should". There, he noted that neither the picture of the gargoyle in Monster Manual (1977) nor the picture of the margoyle in the Monster Manual II (1983) included wings, though both critters had the ability to fly!

Gygax wrote the problem off as a simple error, but Dave Collins followed up with "an alternative viewpoint" in Polyhedron #23 (April 1985) where he suggested that gargoyles actually have detachable wings: they're not required for flying, but they help with steering. This idea was used as the basis for the eponymous gargoyles of "Gargoyle".

Ironically, the whole topic was about to become moot. When gargoyles reappeared for AD&D 2e in MC2: Monstrous Compendium Volume Two (1989), the picture clearly showed a pair of wings rising up behind the gargoyle.

Genre Tropes: Parody. WG7: Castle Greyhawk (1988) pushed the world of Greyhawk over into the world of parody. "Gargoyle" continues with that genre, albeit to a lesser extent. The gargoyles are "easy-going" and have names like Rudy and Hubert. A series of "Flying Gargoyle Encounter Charts" constantly mock their lack of maneuverability. Beyond that, most of the references in the adventure can be taken seriously (or else have been lost down the River of Time), though a pair of half-orc assassins named Tom and Jerry still stick out as obvious jokes.

Adventure Tropes. "Gargoyle" is an introductory adventure. It gives the players a simple quest, provides the GM with easy-to-run encounters, and stays constrained to a limited, adventuresome frontier in Greyhawk. The plot is a pure Macguffin hunt, as the players search for gargoyles' lost wings. From there it's laid out as pure sequential encounters, with some slight ability to skip encounters based on player actions.

Exploring Greyhawk. "Gargoyle" introduces the Tors (hex #F5-131), which it describes as "a frontier area between the Yeomanry (to the northwest) and the Hold of the Sea Princes (to the southeast)." There's some slight detail of the village of Rockburgh-on-the-Marsh and the nearby Gargoyle Valley, but since the adventure is encounter-based, there aren't any extensive descriptions.

Monsters of Note. The adventure of course focuses on gargoyles, a monster that first appeared in OD&D (1974) as "a reptilian beast with horns, talons, fangs, bat-like wings". (Yes, wings!) OD&D also suggests that D&D's gargoyles originated in "medieval architecture", though Gygax mentioned another source: "The Gargoyle, Royal Steak House, Paul Junker", a restaurant in Lake Geneva with a gargoyle fountain, where some early Gen Con banquets were held. However, Gygax says that he imagined D&D's gargoyles not as animate statues, but as "a species of monsters hailing from another material plane" to which "various other grotesques are native."

Supplement II: Blackmoor (1975) introduced the gargoyle's aquatic cousin, the kopoacinth, then S4: "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth" (1982) debuted the stonier "marlgoyles" who became "margoyles" with the release of Monster Manual II (1983); Gygax says that "laziness set in", causing him to accidentally drop the "l".

The wingless gargoyles of "Gargoyle" are called "gargoyles of the Tor" to differentiate them from (their nearly identical) kin in the Monster Manual. GMs are told that they should decide whether the Tor gargoyles are the standard gargoyle species in their world, but are warned that if they are, then "a thriving monster species will be threatened with terminal wimphood". Apparently the powers that be at TSR didn't want wimpy gargoyles in Greyhawk, because Grist, or true gargoyles, appear in WG12: "Vale of the Mage" (1990).

About the Creators. Dave Collins wrote just this one roleplaying supplement; apparently speculating on gargoyles can only take you so far. Skip Williams, who helped with this adventure, had previously authored M2: "Vengeance of Alphaks", and would also contribute to the next Greyhawk adventure, WG10: "Child's Play" (1989).

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 shannon.appelcline@gmail.com.

 
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File Last Updated:
June 06, 2016
This title was added to our catalog on June 14, 2016.