Some time ago, I was given the opportunity to write an article in the new “History Check” series in Dragon magazine. It was to be about the legendary battle between Corellon Larethian, the god of the elves, and Gruumsh, the god of the orcs. “Updating” this legend—which actually amounted to organizing all the contradicting accounts and paying homage to them all (at least, that’s how I do it)—is nothing short of geek indulgence.
And this is the end result:
The first thing I needed to do was dig up all the old books that pertained to Corellon and Gruumsh, including their first appearance. Now, I’d owned the 1st Edition sourcebook Legends and Lore since I was a kid. And while that book is a wealth of D&D lore and a hefty dose of real world religion and polytheism—which unquestionably kickstarted my childhood interest in mythology—it also introduced the non-human gods of D&D. That is, the gods of elves, dwarves, halflings, orcs, goblins, gnolls, trolls, kobolds, and a bunch more.
Rather, its predecessor did. Fellow writer/game designer/Foreshadower Mike Ferguson helpfully sent me some excerpts from the book Deities and Demigods—thanks, Mike!—which included the original tale of Corellon vs. Gruumsh. And every now and then there’d be some new version of the event, alternating the method by which Corellon blinded Gruumsh: with his sword...no, with his bow...no, the sword again...no, with a hot poker!
The Forgotten Realms also had its own incarnation of Corellon, and in that tale—told eloquently in full by Elaine Cunningham in Evermeet: Island of Elves—the elf god nearly met his defeat by the betrayal of Araushnee (aka Lolth). Another notable take on the legend came from The Complete Book of Elves, a memorably awesome 2nd Edition book written by Colin McComb. And of course, both Corellon and Gruumsh saw some dramatic changes in the 4th Edition of D&D—particularly with their involvement in the Dawn War, their fundamental origins, and their relationship with other gods.
In my article, the intent was to unite or otherwise allude to all these various versions, to tie them together somehow in a single tale and maybe add a couple of new elements to it without just rebooting the whole thing. It’s written, like all the “History Check” articles, by a member of the Vistani, the gypsy-like nomads (originally from the Ravenloft setting) who travel across the planes. And since they are the Vistani, it’s still just a story. So whether a player or DM wants to take is as canon or just another version in the list, I’m really happy to have had the chance to play with some of D&D’s iconic characters. It’s pure homage to me.
The illustrations of Corellon and Gruumsh have also varied greatly across the editions of the game. Sometimes they’re hilariously awkward, sometimes really cool, sometimes, I think, a little off the mark. The illustration for my article, and serving as the “cover” for Dragon #408 is certainly a new but fun adaptation: Wayne Reynolds doing what Wayne Reynolds does: making detail-heavy, epic battlescapes with dashing heroes pitted against very monstrous foes.
But hey! Where’d spear-toting Gruumsh get a hammer? Just like with The Darkwood Mask, a prominent character on the cover is given a big-ass hammer he doesn't actually have in the story. Why am I not writing about Thor?
But these artists are making me look good, so I'm not complaining.