October 23rd, 2008:
I bet this
article by Bill Slaviscek slipped by most of us. It almost got by me since I drifted from reading
WotC's electronic Dragon and Dungeon articles. Now that they finally started the subscription
access (belatedly) for their D&D mags I will definitely miss out on future Greyhawk related material.
Essentially the end of the article is a 4e writeup on Graz'zt. The statblock is fine but there is one
glaring change to his backstory. Namely the Dark Prince was once a devil and was sent by Asmodeus to the
abyss on a mission but stayed there and became a demon-prince in his own right.
How could I miss that? Luckily there are forums to bring attention to topics like this.
thread is from two weeks ago and the reply by
Paizo Chief and Abyssal scholar Erik Mona is pretty good:
Thinking more about this, I really don't think it's a big deal. 4e has already decided on an absolutist position regarding demons and devils. If it looks human in any way and wants to corrupt you, it's a devil. If it wants to eat you and rape your eyes, it's a demon.
If the succubus is not going to survive as a demon, neither is Graz'zt. So, having gotten over that particular gnashing of teeth months ago, I fail to see this change as really that big of a deal at all.
Gary Gygax provided a charming demonic origin for Graz'zt in his Gord the Rogue series, tying him to an interesting race of demons called the Abat-Dolor who had their own realm and intriguing role in the politics of the Abyss. As a rule, these demons had black skin, six fingers on each hand, and a sort of, well, diabolical approach to scheming and corrupting.
But the latter Gord the Rogue books are not the intellectual property of Wizards of the Coast, as they were written after Gary departed TSR. As neat as this story is, TSR/Wizards can't really use it.
Instead, Graz'zt's origins have largely remained unknown prior to his fateful meeting with the demonologist Iggwilv and his imprisonment in the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.
Since the 4th edition version presents him as a _former_ devil who is currently a demon, they're essentially presenting him exactly as he first appeared in the Gary Gygax AD&D module "The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth," which was his first appearance in print.
Here's a summary of things about Graz'zt that have been changed in 4e:
1. Prior to him appearing in the "story" of D&D, he turned into a demon after being a devil.
That's pretty much it. Here, on the other hand, are elements of Graz'zt's backstory _not_ invalidated by the new version:
1. That he was a demon lord captured by the demonologist Iggwilv.
2. That he is the father of the demon-god Iuz the Evil, the primary villain of the World of Greyhawk campaign setting.
3. That he had subsequent dealings with the likes of Iggwilv and Zagig Yragerne, the archwizard of Castle Greyhawk.
4. That his lair spans three layers of the Abyss, which he personally conquered.
I'm not a fan of all of the demon/devil shuffling that's been going on in 4e. Not by a longshot.
But this doesn't really seem to ruin any of the main mythic points that "make Graz'zt Graz'zt," so I have a hard time getting worked up about this.
Frankly, given that they didn't just make Graz'zt a devil, I think it shows they're being more careful than it sometimes seems with some of the really important chess pieces of the Dungeons & Dragons IP than people here give them credit for.
The proof will be in future use of Graz'zt. Will they go out of their way change it so there is "no such thing" as Iggwilv (doubtful given the picture accompanying the article) or Iuz (still up in the air) and the like? Will they simply ignore elements that they don't like so as not to upset folks who like the old stuff? Will they witlessly blunder their way to a kewler story that accidentally undoes something people have cared about for years? We'll see, but I think there's evidence here that they're being careful with Graz'zt while still fitting him within the new, more rigid definition of demons and devils. This makes me more confident in how the Abyss and related matters will be handled in the future.
As a Grognard Prince I miss my paraelemental planes, my chaotic evil succubi, and my Deep Ethereal, but there aren't really any stories I wanted to tell about Graz'zt in my campaigns that this new take invalidates.
I agree with Erik. Normally I chide 4E fluff writing but this new
development is actually decent given the new state of the D&D cosmology. I must be going soft.
Doh! Speaking of Graz'zt, we're missing his show (points the remote)