Thursday, June 18, 2009

Michael Moorcock on D&D (and More)

How did Michael feel about the heavy borrowing from the Elric saga to create the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world?

Ambiguously? When I told the original D&D guys they could use Elric it was in the spirit of the 60s/70s when it seemed to many of us that we were sharing in a common culture and the products of that culture. Of course, I hadn't anticipated that some people would start turning all this stuff into commercial businesses and so it was a bit of a surprise when D&D and Chaosium, for instance, started fighting over who 'owned' the rights to the Elric 'cosmology'. Then, as time went on, I was even more surprised to see it all developing into pretty soulless marketing methods where companies like Warcraft and others began to rip off me and Tolkien in particular. Call me naive, but I was used to a more ethical age, if you like, where people tended to ask other people what they thought about 'borrowing' their ideas. I suppose I should have trademarked and copyrighted all this stuff sooner, but I'm still unhappy about that sort of thing, which goes against all my ethical notions. I tend to be a bit contemptuous of people incapable of coming up with their own ideas. The irony is, of course, is that my ideas have got into the general cultural bloodstream and I suppose I should be flattered by that. I'm not the first person, of course, to see that happen. Kipling, Conan Doyle or H.G.Wells must have felt a lot more stunned than I was to see the world of the early 20th century packed with jungle boys, consulting detectives and time/space machines. The only problem I have, I suppose, is when I'm either accused of imitating someone who is hardly aware that their idea came from or when some obvious copy of my stuff makes a fortune. I also get irritated by publishers like Orion who manipulate my books to keep them out of print (in order to keep from paying royalties on a cross-accounted contract) and promote books which are pretty obviously influenced by mine. That simply seems unjust!

This and a whole lot more if you follow the link.


  1. James,

    Mike is very easy to reach publicly at the site.

  2. Wow...I love Michael Moorcock, and reading this interview just makes me a bigger fan. Ha!

  3. What exactly did AD&D steal from Moorcock?

    Other than the Deities & Demi-Gods stuff, which he seems to admit giving permission to use...

    It's funny how he was fine with sharing cultural productions until large sums of money became involved...

  4. One might query how much MM created, he used to be quite clear how much his work follows in fantastical traditions that long predate him. Tolkien was quite clear on how much he was retelling very old myths and legends. Even Stormbringer has roots. You can't copyright ideas Mike..

  5. Well, D&D "stole" a lot of the ideas behind the multiverse from Mike, and the most egregious theft is probably the sword Blackrazor from White Plume Mountain (to say nothing of the back cover illustration, which is clearly meant to be Elric).

  6. I'd say he's bang on the money.

    The problem wasn't people copying his ideas. It was when those copying his ideas tried to sue other people also copying from Moorcock as if they owned the idea. As he mentioned, Chaosium and TSR got into a legal wrangle about who owned the "Cosmology IP" they borrowed from Moorcock. Even if Moorcock didn't invent it first, they sure as hell didn't and shouldn't be trying to forbid others from using it.

    It would be like if D&D tried to sue other media to stop them from using halfling-like creatures.

  7. I love Tolkein, but Moorcock has had a much more profound impact on my D&D games.

    Hell James. CAS yesterday, Moorcock today? Are you raiding my library of favorites?

  8. I would guess that the original question referred to a lot of the cosmology of AD&D, with the idea of aligned planes and gods and demons inhabiting them, all sort of surrounding infinite versions of the prime material plane, which serve as the battleground for the powerful inhabitants of the outer planes - this is pretty much exactly the setup that MM used in the Elric books.

  9. There is no doubt that Moorcock had many great ideas that had a profound influence on the development of A/D&D.

    I love many of his ideas. Pity I can't stand his writing (far too 'slapdash' for my tastes). And his bashing of Tolkien rubs me the wrong way.

  10. I think what Moorcock is referring to is the dust-up between TSR and Chaosium in the early 80s over the first printing of the DDG. TSR used both the Cthulhu and Melnibonéan mythoi, which Chaosium considered to be theirs alone to use for RPG purposes, leading to the removal of both from subsequent printings. The problem, I believe, is that, from Moorcock's perspective, neither company had permission to use the material as they did, since -- and I may be mistaken on this -- he's claimed that Chaosium violated the terms of their contract with him, which is why he was reputedly pleased to see Mongoose take over the line.


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