Over at LotRP challenged the RPG bloggers to identify the influences on their games with a minimum of five. He’s after “read/watch this to get what to expect in my game”.

A grand idea for a first post so I think I’ll play.

  1. Lord Dunsany:I found Dunsany via Lovecraft and he is my standard for sense of wonder and the feeling I’m after in my new campaign. His somewhat dreamy stories of ancient cities and traveler’s tales lack the grit and adventure of Howard or the horror of Lovecraft but they have a sense of another world that neither captured, although Lovecraft came close with the Dreamland. Far and way my favorite story is Poltarnees, Beholder of Ocean found in A Dreamer’s Tales. I think How the Enemy Came to Thlunrana from Book of Fifty One Tales is required old school reading. As the above links indicate, most if not all of Lord Dunsay’s short fantastic works are now at Project Gutenberg. His two best know fantasy novels: The Charwoman’s Shadow and The King of Elfland’s Daughter are in print.
  2. Robert Adams: I’m sure I’ll trash my old school cred by saying this, but to me the barbarian isn’t Conan (although I accept he is the archetype) but the plains dwelling Horseclans. Arguably the ultimate early 80s heavy metal sword and sorcery series I knew Milo Mori long before I really knew Conan but I learned the same concept of civilization leading to softness. Also, the two Friends of the Horseclans anthology are to my mind the best example of the golden age of fanfic, where authors were able to encourage it and help publish the best of it.
  3. Leigh Brackett:On December 5, 1964 NASA stole two of the greatest worlds in literature from us: Mars. In confirming Mars as a cold dead lifeless world they ensured Leigh Brackett would set the last of the John Stark stories not on Mars or Mercury, but on Skaith, a planet ’round another sun. Before the Mariner probes reveled the impossibility of her work Brackett had continued writing about a solar system full of adventure. Although they aren’t classified as such I consider many of the Mars stories to be great examples of the “dying earth” genre named after the wonderful Jack Vance book. Anyone looking for that kind of vibe in their game would be well served by reading stories such as The Jewel of Bas and The Beast-Jewel of Mars. One Brackett story, A World is Born is available at Project Guttenberg.
  4. Edgar Rice Burroughs:When I said Mariner stole two worlds the first was Brackett’s Mars. The second was Barsoom. This world of dying cities, egg laying princesses, and six armed green giants inspired people as diverse as EGG and Carl Sagan, albeit in very different directions. While best know for Tarzan, Burroughs created many fantastic heroes. The first was John Carter of Mars, a former Confederate Calvary officer wished to Mars when his strength from growing up in Earth’s higher gravity (and this in 1914) gave him a huge advantage as a fighter. Just as REH created and defined swords and sorcery with Conan in the 30s Burroughs created the planetary romance, specifically the sword and planet version, with Carter. He would also create Pellucidar, the world inside the hollow earth (and very influential on the D&D setting), Caspak, land of dinosaurs and cavemen and Amtor, his Venus which is my favorite series of his, as well as others. The first five Barsoom books, first two Pellucidar, and all of the Caspak books are available at Project Gutenberg as well as other Burroughs books (including several Tarzans).
  5. C. L. Moore:I once fell for a girl because of the guinea pig she’d had as a child. It’s name was Jirel. If you immediately say “of Jory” you can skip to the next entry. If not you are sadly lacking in your reading. If Conan was the first sword and sorcery hero then second was a fighting war woman wearing real armor instead of a chainmail bikini and fighting to maintain a fief in an alternate medieval France. Her name was Jirel and the barony was Jory. One of the many characters I first found via “Giants in the Earth” write-ups in The Dragon she was every 15 year old D&D geek’s dream girl and the model for warrior women in my games to this day.
  6. Clark Ashton Smith:“I, Satampra Zeiros of Uzuldaroum, shall write with my left hand, since I have no longer any other, the tale of everything that befell Tirouv Ompallios and myself in the shrine of the god Tsathoggua, which lies neglected by the worship of man in the jungle-taken suburbs of Commoriom, that long-deserted capital of the Hyperborean rulers. I shall write it with the violet juice of the suvana-palm, which turns to a blood-red rubric with the passage of years, on a strong vellum that is made from the skin of the mastodon, as a warning to all good thieves and adventurers who may hear some lying legend of the lost treasures of Commoriom and be tempted thereby.”

    If that doesn’t quicken your heart to adventure I doubt anything can. Is there any more open fragment more suited to tempt a party to exclude a ruined city? Such is the nature of Clark Ashton Smith’s writings. A fan of lost continents and one of the earliest writers of “dying earth” stories with his tales of the last continent of Zothique he seems forgotten compared to his contemporaries but his tales are well worth reading. With nearly all of them online at Eldritch Dark there is no reason not to read them. The site includes other goodies including a D20 sourcebook for Zothique.

  7. Stephen Donaldson:And now for something completely different. No grand heroes of action here, but instead deeply psychological late 20th century novels with a fantasy or science fiction setting. Yet the Land is inspiring to those wishing to do quest fantasy with a strong symbolic content that isn’t Middle Earth 2. His various Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, who is pretty unlikable for much of the first three books (including a rather vile act in the opening of the first), aren’t easy going and turn off a lot of readers who want heroic characters in their fantasy. Sometimes I think they belong in general fiction but The Land itself is too fantastic and ponderous a setting to not embrace. His evil races: ur-viles, viles, and ravers are creative and unique. I bought my first issue of White Dwarf specifically to get a write up of them. His giants are stock rip-offs in my setting for seafarers much as Adams’s Horseclans are my barbarians.