Originally published as the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds back in 2001, we are bringing these books back to life with new covers by Jason Walton, new interior art, a new dynamic design, and pocket folders for maps and other content.


The Original Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds

The Canting Crew (first published in 2001, removed from circulation 2008) GFW Vol. I

This work explores the classless underclass. From Gary’s introduction: “Here you will discover details of the criminal underclasses, their city and country environments, a dictionary of their secret language, signs and signals, and many examples of how to use the thieves’ cant in conversation.”

The work is broken up into two parts: Part 1 The Canting Crew Society, Part 2 Cant. In the original published version, we added two more books to it, one for prestige classes for D&D d20 and a fourth for classes in Gary’s own Lejendary Adventures. These last sections were short and filled with class material.

The Canting Crew Society (Part 1) is an expansive work. It first dives into the socio-economic life of a city, its guilds and businesses, how they interact, taxes, and the like. That is followed by the architecture of the city and how that impacts the ebb and flow of the life of the city. Political divisions, policing, arms law, and city revenue are all discussed. The section next explores social environments in the town or city and lastly the heart of the Canting Crew, the Brotherhoods: Assassins, Thieves, Vagabonds, and Beggars. Each of these is divided up into their manifold groups and specialists from the bladesmen to the waylaers. There are dozens of them discussed.

In Cant (Part 2) Gary dives into the thieves’ cant itself with a massive 40-page dictionary of verbiage, beginning with the names of food, drink, money, weapons, armor, names for the canting crew itself, an English to cant dictionary and a cant to English dictionary along with signs and pictograms as well as signals. Through it, your character can truly speak and communicate in the secret tongue of thieves. “Plant and stam flash!” or “Be careful to speak only in cant.”

A host of tables rounds up the book with criminal offenses, punishments, consumer goods, trade goods, housing costs, courts, and more.

We are at last able to revisit The Canting Crew, Gary’s favorite of the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds, bringing it back to print. It joins the other six books in the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds on Kickstarter this March. New covers, new layout, a great book for a new audience.

The Canting Crew was being reformatted and headed for a second printing in 2008 with The Canting Crew Revisited. This never appeared.

The World Builder (first published in 2002, removed from circulation in 2008) GFW Vol. II

The World Bulder was co-authored by Gary Gygax and Dan Cross. Todd Gray and myself added some definitions to sections we felt needed fleshed out. It was, originally, little more than a book of lists. At first sight, it was easy to discard the book as just that, only long list of tables and more tables, listing everything from tree types to types of spoons. But it was—and is— so much more than that.

Broken up into three parts: Part 1 covers armor, weapons, measurements, the bazaar, tavern, and transport. Part 2 covers geography, including a mountain of flora and fauna. Part 3 covers dwellings.

The lists are exhaustive. For instance, in dwellings, you find everything from a hogan to a yurt, an abattoir (a slaughterhouse) to a wheelwright. There are well over a hundred of them, each defined and described. These are followed by lists of rooms, lists of what to put in rooms, types of treasures and so on. These lists cover almost everything you could possibly need to populate a wilderness or dungeon environment. They are, again, exhaustive.

One hundred pages of lists are then followed by a host of appendices that give you random generators from humans to structures, colors to crimes.

This book changed the way I ran games. In laying it out and reading it over several times my vocabulary changed, expanded, and my ability to describe what the players saw greatly improved.

The World Builder enjoyed two printings and was headed to a third in 2009.

This title has been renamed Essential Facts & Things.

Living Fantasy (first published in 2002, removed from circulation in 2008) GFW Vol. III

This work I contend is Gary’s seminal work and probably my favorite of the things he produced; Living Fantasy delves into manifold aspects of creating a fantasy environment. He breaks the work up into two major parts: Part 1 The Physical Landscape, and Part 2 The Cultural Landscape. This is followed by the obligatory mountain of appendices and a whole write-up section called Day in the Life.

The Physical Landscape begins with an essay on civilian and military architecture, bridges, tunnels, and roads. It follows that up with land transport, from foot travel to carriages, wagons to carts. Water transport and unusual transport steers us into the sea and travel with magic. That leads into a section on the uses of magic in such an environment. The section is rounded up with materials, magic and otherwise, and what to do with a gun. Understanding how the mundane world works is the key to creating it, understanding how magic works in such a world is the key to fantasy creations.

The Cultural Landscape does much the same thing for the people who occupy that world. Beginning with a discussion of feudalism, upper and middle class, lower and underclass (the Canting Crew), it guides you in the peopling of your world. This is followed by a discussion of how they group together, covering cities and their sizes, military encampments, manors, fortresses and castles, temples, and more. The section plunges into the priesthood and how magic would define such a world…clerics can cure disease…and the same is given to the ruling classes. Stepping outside the feudal world, Living Fantasy wraps up this section with a look at loosely organized societies.

A Day in the Life covers the day in the life of over a dozen personages: the bailiff, beggar, great officer, mage, shopkeeper and more.

All this is followed by a host of charts and tables to help you visualize classes in society, rates of speed, emblems and so much more.

Living Fantasy sold slower than the others, as its content tended to be a little more “highbrow” as we would say in my day.

Side note to the beleaguered reader: These first three books represent some of my favorite covers for any and all the publications we have. They were beyond creative and captured the essence of the works they represented. They were created, and drawn by Matt Milberger and Kieran Yanner. The Canting Crew stands out as my favorite. The wired cover is just too evocative.

Extraordinary Book of Names (first published in 2004, removed from circulation in 2008) GFW Vol. IV

This the fourth volume published in the series proved to be the best-selling of them all. With over 100,000 names, a history of names, character names, a fantasy name generator, and other information on how and what to name your character of any gender, it hit a sweet spot in the gaming world for players, GMs, and designers. To this day we hear people remarking that it is the most used book at their tables, no matter the system.

The Book of Names has five separate parts: a guide to names, people, epithets and titles, places, and fantastic names.

The Guide to Names and Naming is just that: a loose guide to how to create names, how to choose them, and how to factor in things like culture, religion, historical context, and a host of other factors. It explores male and female names, how feminine and masculine endings play out, the sound of names, aptitudes and names, and magic.

The second part, People, unlocks the heart of the book’s intent. A list of names, surnames, male and female, standard and common from a host of real-world cultures. These include but are not limited to Britain and all its variants, African (generalized as there are some 2000 distinctive languages in the continent), Berber, Inca, Aztec including Sanskrit, Chinese, Korean, Mongol, Tibetan, Finnish, Celtic, Dutch, and all the Europeans, Oceania such as Papuan, Polynesian, and Aboriginal. Ancient civilizations as well: Rome, Greece, Egypt, and Phoenician. It covers most of the bases.

The last three parts are shorter than the first, and include a host of names for titles and groups as well as epithets, place names, and fantastic names as well as a guide to creating fantasy names.

In short, Malcolm Bowers put together an astounding book that is rather Extraordinary.

It enjoyed two printers, both the first as the book sold a good chunk of its first run through retail channels before the Trolls even saw it and could stop it, for the fonts were misprinted within. A second printing was done by the printers and released and kept the book in print until 2008.

Insidiae: The Brainstormers Guide to Adventures (first published in 2004, removed from circulation in 2008) GFW Vol. V

This next book was written by Dan Cross with a foreword by Gary Gygax. Dan plunged into the world of adventure writing and designing. The entire book explored what goes into an adventure, and in consequence, cemented material that appeared in Living Fantasy and World Builder.

Insidiae divides its content into five parts: Part 1 takes up events, Part 2 develops story roles, Part 3 characters, Part 4 drama and conflict, and Part 5 objectives. These are followed by appendices that cover plots, interactions, random generating tables, and samples.

In Part 1 Dan sets the stage for the adventure, be it political, economic, or religious. Environmental disasters explore everything from tornadoes to floods. War and social upheaval are covered. Anything that helps create an environment of tension and strife even to the edge of the cataclysm on deific wars and cosmic imbalances.

Part 2 builds upon that with story roles, from antagonists that hinder, to actors who stand aside, and the wild cards. This dovetails into Part 3 and the characteristics of those involved on both sides of the gaming screen, including character types and random tables.

The last two parts study plot and objectives, giving clear guidance on how to use both to make the adventure far more memorable and believable. This includes themes and endings, more random generators, and more.  It also has a step-by-step adventure guide. Insidiae is the toolbox for adventure.

This title has been changed to Guide to Adventure Writing.

Nation Builder (first published in 2005, removed from circulation in 2008) GFW Vol. VI

“The geographer’s guide to setting creation.” With those words, Michael Varhola launched into the sixth GFW book, Nation Builder. This work is divided up into three parts that cover a wide range of subjects, with the intent to supply the reader with the tools to build your world’s politics from the ground up.

Nation Builder begins with a study of the characteristics that go into building a nation. The attributes of the nation are presented first. What type, where in the scale of human development, the land and resources that constitute its life blood and the type of government the locals have adopted.

In Part 2 The Community, you are assigned the task of developing the social structures that govern the people who occupy the land, from the size of communities to social structures, from naming to ceremonies, economic models, and output, tax systems, and more. Here is the meat of what you players must encounter.

The Culture, Part 3, caps the land and her people with religion and magi, discussing tech levels, folklore, and more. Here are a host of adventure hooks as well. The culture section defines your people’s cosmological view of themselves and the world they live in.

Nation Builder rounds out with a host of appendices that give the reader ready access to the information on building a nation of peoples. Each subject is supported with an ongoing series of detailed examples and miniature case studies so that the book can serve as both a guide to creating campaign settings and a ready-made sourcebook and sample milieu for writers, GMs, and designers alike.

Cosmos Builder (first published in 2006, removed from circulation in 2008) GFW Vol. VII

Not the last planned, but the last published; Cosmos Builder was the 7th of the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds books to see print. It was divided into 9 separate chapters, each of which propels the designer and game master ever deeper into the outer planes. Written by Richard T. Balsley it sported the new cover design planned for the entire series.

After briefly touching on fantasy cosmologies the book dives into dimensional matrices and space-time. Here the nature of the content is defined and organized. The stage for the rest of the book. Chapters 2 and 3 cover the Prime Material Plane and the Physical Planes, classifying the elements. Chapter 3 ropes in planar travel as well.

Cosmos Builder then steps into the Aethereal Plane (Chapter 4), and the Celestial and Nether Realms (Chapters 5 & 6). From hell and the abyss to the angelic realms, their manifestations are covered. Chapter 7 stays on target and plunges into the Realms of Order and the Realms of Chaos (Chapter 8).  These chapters delve into the relations between magic and the planes, and the end of all things.

Chapter 9 wraps up the bulk of the book by touching on spheres, pocket spheres, anomalies, oubliettes and all the minor aberrations that appear in the planes beyond our own. A bevy of appendices with samples, core values, and shapes and sizes wrap up the Cosmos Builder.