Published by Troll Lord Games.
Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works — or, more precisely, Gary Gygax’s Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works — is the coda that brings the symphony of Gary Gygax’s game writing to a melancholy conclusion. Consisting of six staple-bound booklets (varying in length from 20 to 48 pages) and three glossy maps in a large box, The Upper Works (hereinafter abbreviated TUW) is available from Troll Lord Games for $44.95 until the end of December 2008, after which TLG’s license to publish and sell it and other Gary Gygax-related products ends. This had made TUW an instant collector’s item for devotees of the late Dungeon Master. And collector’s item it ought to be, for TUW is a remarkable, if flawed, piece of work. These flaws do not, I think, diminish the remarkable achievement Gygax and his protégé, Jeff Talanian, have given to the gaming world, but they do contribute to the lingering sense of time wasted and promises unfulfilled that swirl around Gary’s gaming legacy.
In this review of Castle Zagyg: The Upper Works, I am going to examine this product on two levels: against my long-held hopes and expectations for this seminal Greyhawk release, and for the simple reality of what the product is. I think that’s the only way to be fair to CZ:UW and its authors, but still to remain fair to the history of its lineage as well. Therefore, I will be delving into how well CZ:UW represents its Greyhawk heritage, and how well it stands alone as a dungeon adventure product sans Greyhawk. I will also assess the boxed set’s production and design (editing, layout, organization, art, and cartography), and then I’ll conclude by grading the product in each category above on a 10-point scale (where 0 is horrible and 10 is perfect).