Guild Wars 2 expands on the lore established in Guild Wars, but it also builds on the story with a new trilogy of books. The first of those books, Ghosts of Ascalon, introduces players to the story that sets the stage for Guild Wars 2. Ten Ton Hammer got the chance to speak with Ghosts of Ascalon co-author Jeff Grubb to learn more about the story of the book and how it folds into the lore of Guild Wars 2.

Ten Ton Hammer: Could you introduce yourself to our readers?

Jeff Grubb: My name is Jeff Grubb and I’m a game designer with ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2. I work with the content team and I am responsible for continuity, lore, some of the cinematics and basically keeping us going in the same direction being the repository and traffic cop and making sure we’re all going in the same direction at the same time.

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style="font-style: italic;">Ghosts of Ascalon will lead players into the wold of Guild Wars 2.

In addition, I am the co-author of Ghosts of Ascalon, the first of our three independent Guild Wars novels for Simon and Schuster and it’s the first novel that leads us into the world of Guild Wars 2.

Ten Ton Hammer: Could you tell us a little about Ghosts of Ascalon?

Jeff Grubb: It is 250 years later and a greater danger is arising in Tyria, but the various races: the humans, charr, asura, the norn are all pursuing their own agendas and can’t see the bigger picture. And one of the things that occur before the start of our game is that the humans and the charr come to a peace.

In Guild Wars, to the old players that were human, the charr were the enemy. But now the charr will be a playable race and the two sides will be able to interact and as a result there has to be some sort of resolution to the charr/human war that’s been going on for so many centuries. And part of the story of the novel is the resolution of how they got to the cease fire that exists at the start of the game. That’s the high level story.

This is also the story of Dougal Keane, who is one of the few humans that has gone into Ascalon City, which is in the heart of charr territory and is haunted by a humungous number of ghosts and got out alive and how he deals alone with the ghosts in Ascalon and also how he deals with his personal ghosts from that previous expedition.

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style="font-style: italic;">Tyria has changed a lot and Ghosts of Ascalon will help bring players both new and old up to speed.

It’s a lot about adventuring, friends, alliances, and facing the failures of the past. Ghosts of Ascalon was written with both first-time explorers and long-time fans in mind, people who are coming to Tyria for the first time or have heard about Guild Wars or this book and thought it looked interesting. So we have to bring people in and let them understand the world. For long-term fans, which have been playing since Guild Wars Prophecies back on day one, the world has changed and we have to tell them how the world has changed and why it is the way it is.  So it is complete in and of itself. No additional war or background is really necessary. And we’re hoping that the story we’re telling here will bring people back to find out more in other books.

Ten Ton Hammer: You’ve noted in your latest Dev Diary that you had to think about lots of things like what’s served at a dinner party with the Asura and Sylvari and how the politics and justice system is in Divinity’s Reach. Is it fair to say that the canon has grown quite a bit? And have any of these changes or additions caused you to rethink how things will play out in Guild Wars 2?

Jeff Grubb: Yeah. Books and games are a different medium and they each have different strengths and challenges. I can get deep into lore and backdrop in a novel and I can blow your socks off with action and art in a game. Books and games feed upon each other and there are benefits to both. A good example is we talked about the legal system. We have very medieval-type of castles and farms and a very traditional fantasy feel in the human areas, but the legal system functions differently at the high levels than at the low levels. In other words, bringing charges against a minister, who is one of the rulers, is very different than charges brought against a supposed tomb robber who is originally from Ascalon but has been living in Ebonhawke. So we’re looking at a lot of depth to the world as far as how we interact with it. In the real world we have different things that apply at different levels. We found the same thing applies within our fantasy world.

We knew when we started that something happened so that the humans and charr went from enemies to at least not beating on each other at first sight and this story is in many ways that story, but what Matt Forbeck brought to the table was the idea of a charr artifact. With that, the charr would be able to seal a peace deal and that evolved into the Claw of the Khan-Ur, which is this weapon of the ultimate ruler of the charr. The charr do not currently have a Khan-Ur they have the Leaders of the Legions. So that added that to that part of the world and the weapon itself was actually something created from Guild Wars and we said, “Ok, this is a unique kind of weapon, so let’s just pick up and build with it.”

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style="font-style: italic;">Some old wars have been put aside in the face of a new threat.

The books and games both add to each other to make a better overall brand.

Ten Ton Hammer: The charr don’t seem like the type that would ask for the humans help. Is that part of the story as well? Why they are willing to let the humans help them and make peace with?

Jeff Grubb: That is part the story. The humans and the charr have been fighting for hundreds of years. The humans and charr have taken over most of Ascalon, but in doing so they have set off an act of ultimate vengeance from the King of Ascalon. And as a result they’re dealing with the whole nation that’s now haunted. So they’ve got other more immediate pressures on. They’ve got the ghosts, one of their own legions, the renegade Flame Legion. A lot of the charr that we met back in Guild Wars were controlled by the Flame Legion, so basically that legion is fighting the other legions, the legion that the player characters come from and about four or five years ago a dragon also showed up and carved a huge mark down one side of their kingdom. So they’re really sort of walking it back.

So the idea of maintaining a war with the humans is no longer the priority that it once was. Not all charr agree with that and that’s why it has to be a very careful negotiation.

Ten Ton Hammer: In what ways does Ghosts of Ascalon set the stage for the second and the third novels? Will the novels be a continuation of the plot or are they separate stories?

Jeff Grubb: They will be separate stories. Here is a deep world. It’s got a lot going on and we’ve got 250 years to play with, so there are a lot of stories that we can tell in this area and in the course of Ghosts of Ascalon we tell some of those stories. We talk about female charr. We’ve never seen any female charr in the first Guild Wars and people wondered why. There’s a reason for it.

Ghosts of Ascalon takes place a year before the events of the game. The wars are just starting to wind down. So in addition to everything else it’s a way to get you to a point to say, “This is where we start.” This is the beginning of the game. So it’s a prequel to the game to some degree.

The second book, Edge of Destiny, by J. Robert King, is a separate novel. And several of the characters from Edge of Destiny appear in Ghosts of Ascalon. But it’s at a different time of their life and a different point in their story. But you get to see the characters here for the first time and find out how they got there in the next part.

Ten Ton Hammer: We don’t know the fate of people like Dougal Keane, but will players be able to interact with some of the books major characters in Guild Wars 2?

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style="font-style: italic;">Characters from the books will appear in the gams as well.

Jeff Grubb: Yes. And Dougal will be part of the game. There are characters that we’ve introduced in the novel that we’ve pulled over and put into the game as well. And some of these are major characters and some are minor characters. So there is a strong connection between the game and the book.

Ten Ton Hammer: We’ve talked with a number of game developers over the years that have also written books and it’s a huge job to do your part in making a game and writing a book on top of that. How are you able to do it? Was it a labor of love for you?

Jeff Grubb: It was a labor of love and I refer to this as the book that swallowed me. In fact, I was doing a lot of work with Matt and as time went by through the revisions he became more and more a part of the process and we became co-writers.

It’s a challenge. I’ve done this sort of thing before. I was one of the founders of Forgotten Realms with Ed Greenwood. It’s a different set of muscles is what it boils down to.

When I’m writing a warzoner novel, even with a co-writer or editors, or in this case everyone reviewing my stuff as we’re writing it, it’s still a very personal experience. Whereas working in an MMO it’s much broader. There are a lot more people involved. There’s a lot more talented stuff coming in from all directions like beautiful art, well-written adventures, characterization, and how to get stuff together. So it’s a different set of brain cells when you’re working on a MMO than when you’re working on a book.

Ten Ton Hammer: There’s a parallel in the MMO genre for the amount of interest that fans have in the lore of a game. Usually the lore is almost a bit of a throw away for an MMO because you’re dealing with a fixed world and players don’t feel like they can interact with it and work with that storyline. What is it about the Guild Wars lore that is so magnetic for players?

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style="font-style: italic;">Guild Wars prides itself on creating memorable characters.

Jeff Grubb: I think one of the great things about Guild Wars is that we’re in a mix, particularly with the characters. Gwen for example, you meet a person and she’s following you around and picks flowers and everything. But she’s grown over time and she’s part of it, she’s a likeable character and we bring her back in the Eye of North and we see how the world has changed her and we feel for that. I think we’ve always been good with characters and not characters that take over but characters that have their own problems and their own strengths and weaknesses, characters that of stick with us for a while. And I think we’ve got that same feeling with the characters from the first novel and from the trailer with Logan and everyone. Those resonate. Those connect for us and I think because you have that connection with characters that’s one reason it’s more than someone just giving you a quest.

Ten Ton Hammer: When will Ghosts of Ascalon be available?

Jeff Grubb: It should be in stores July 27th, 2010.

Ten Ton Hammer: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us.

Jeff Grubb: Thank you. I am excited about the book. I think Matt and I did a great job on it and I’m looking forward to seeing what people think once it comes out.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Guild Wars 2 Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Jeff joined the Ten Ton Hammer team in 2004 covering EverQuest II, and he's had his hands on just about every PC online and multiplayer game he could since.