By Robin Wayne Bailey

Greyhawk Novels

Here’s a pretty obscure bit of Greyhawkiana; the novel Nightwatch by Robin Wayne Bailey. Published in 1990, this was a one-off novel whose author was best known for his contributions to the ever-awesome “Thieves’ World” series (which is a topic for a post unto itself).

The novel focuses on Garrett Starlen, a captain of the Night Watch of the city of Greyhawk, as he tries to unravel the mystery behind why all of the city’s most powerful experts in divination are all killed in the space of a single evening. Soon things start to escalate, with ominous black birds filling the skies and more dead bodies piling up. It’s very much a detective novel, with some nice plot twists, false leads, and the like. It ends up with an invasion of the city, which is fought off thanks in large part to Starlen’s tricking the various factions into turning out all their followers armed to the teeth at the right moment. The whole thing takes place within the City of Greyhawk, except for a jaunt to the Mistmarsh.

The secondary characters are very well defined, and the whole thing is well-written, well-plotted, and well-paced, just as I would expect of a veteran author. I found myself actively looking forward to the next chapter as I was reading.

The timing of the novel is problematic. It is said to be fifty years since the Circle of Eight was last heard from, but there are some odd incongruities. It’s implied, for instance, that mayor Neroff Gasgall has just died, which would make his time in office unbelievably long. Too, the Horned Society is a major force once again, but there are reasons to think that it now controls the Shield Lands.

While it’s plain that Bailey took a lot of time to research the setting, it’s also plain that his researches only went so far, as there are glaring factual errors that any editor should have caught. The names of the moons of Oerth are incorrect, for instance, and he continually mentions that Greyhawk’s nickname is “Necropolis”. There’s also something subtly… wrong… about his descriptions of the city that I find it very difficult to put my finger on. Orcs and dwarves are “magical races”? It almost feels more like Sanctuary than Greyhawk. Still, these are minor things in what is otherwise a pretty good book.

There isn’t much that can be used directly in an RPG campaign, owing to the future setting, but it could be mined for younger NPC versions of the characters, depending on when the campaign was set. The twelve swords known as the Pillars of Heaven could be a nice catalyst for a game, and the fact that the Hierarchs of the Horned Society will rise once more could provide fodder for plots as well.

All in all, a pretty nifty read, even if it is a future Greyhawk that’s a quarter-plane of reality removed from the one we know. I give it four wizards out of five.


Greyhawk Grognard (Joseph Bloch)

Reposted with permission from

Read the Greyhawkstories interview with Robin Wayne Bailey




3 thoughts on “Nightwatch

  1. Just an FYI, in the timeline of 1990 tsr GH, the shield lands were indeed invaded by the horned society, who were set up as the major enemy antagonist in the city of Greyhawk box set that came out that same year, so that at least is not a continuity error.


  2. Horned Society actually was the current main foreign enemy in 1990 Greyhawk as shown in the city of Greyhawk box set. They had invaded the shield lands and there were two shield lands refugees trying to get
    Greyhawk to fight them, and they were behind the nerull cult that are the main villains of the box set. The circle of eight thing is wierd because they are introduced in that same box set for the first time, so making them missing for fifty years was probably just the author solving a plot hole of why mordenkainen didn’t just solve the mystery in three m8nutes of spell casting.


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