03 June 2010

Inspiration for Gaming

David, from http://towerofthearchmage.blogspot.com/, let me on to an interesting question:

This month’s RPG Carnival, hosted by Campaign Mastery, poses the question:
What non-game media have most inspired your games and how?

And you know, that's a really good question. I guess for me, it'd have to be:

  • Elric of Melnibone: I know some people have issues with him telling instead of showing, and his unusual writing style, but I was exposed to this work at a relatively young age. The raw creativity of his work astounded me, and the plain fact that it was so different was really cool. Here, for the first time in my life, was a character with actual problems, a character with depth and substance. He was alternately gloomy and elated, and he had a real history. 
  • Robert Aspirin's "Myth" series: Another book that I'd read from an early age, containing interesting bits about ley lines and alternate universes and demons just being regular people. I think it helped shape my sense of silliness in my game worlds, which is probably a good thing after reading Moorcock heavily.
  • Theives' World: This book, I read heavily in. Matter of fact, the repeated readings and re-readings led to the spine caving in entirely- it's currently held together by duct tape and wishful thinking. The book featured an absolute hell-hole of a town, and the interesting characters that live in it. Because of this book, I've had a strong taste for the wierd and the very low-magic game worlds, where the sorcerers who exist are tragic figures and the theives aren't all bad. It's a really, really good read from some of the finest writers of science fiction and fantasy, in my opinion. I haven't read it in at least 5 years due to the condition of the binding, but I can still remember Jubal the slaver and the bizarre things he'd been through.
  • Conan the Barbarian: I loved this movie. I hadn't been exposed to this before I started gaming, nor had I read the books, but I'd seen the movie. You can say what you will about it, if you approach it with an open mind and a young man's imagination, it's pretty damn good.
  • The Lord of the Rings: Not the books, mind you. I've never cared for Mr. Tolkien's writing style in the least. I'd tried to get through the books, but I'll be damned if he doesn't take one hundred pages to get through what should be two paragraphs of travel, and no, the book isn't better for it. I'll argue about it until the day I die. But anyways, the movies were spectacular, filled with scenes of great battles and bizarre sorcery and incredible landscapes and cities and monuments. It's a movie filled with a sense of wonder. In my games I don't like epic fantasy, but that doesn't mean that there hasn't been a location from the movie quietly cribbed for use in my games. 
And that's that. Looking at it, I realize that there's a good bit of old books up there, which makes sense. The only modern fantasy writer that I particularly enjoy is George R.R. Martin, whose works, I think, one has to enjoy or resign one's Fantasy Lover badge and shred it up.


  1. Good list...I would say your and my definitions of "modern" differ as--other than Elric--yours is mostly series of an 80s vintage. :)

    I too saw the Conan movie before reading the books, though Hawk the Slayer fills my fantasy film guilty pleasure spot.

  2. Touche!

    And good eye; the books that influenced me the most were books that my father had picked up during his college years and shortly thereafter, which was in the late 70s and up, so naturally that's what I read when I couldn't exactly drive off to the store and get my own.

    Still, most of them were published before I was born, and I can get some oddly blank looks when I try and mention Robert Aspirin.