Literary inspiration for the worlds of fantasy role playing games comes from many sources. The fantasy worlds of Dungeons & Dragons and Chivalry & Sorcery are based on myth and fairy tale. The field of literature is dominated by the work of one man in this century: J.R.R. Tolkien. Without the popularity of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, fantasy role playing would not have found the wide public it now enjoys. Despite this, most fantasy games are closer to the wild, bloodthirsty worlds of Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, and L. Sprague de Camp. The magic system of Dungeons & Dragons is partly derived from the books of Jack Vance. De Camp's The Compleat Enchanter discusses magic as a separate kind of reality with its own rules of logic. As a Dungeon Master, I have drawn extensively from the works of A. Merritt, Andre Norton, Clark Ashton Smith, Lord Dunsany, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and H. Rider Haggard.As he so often does, I think Holmes strikes the right balance here, pointing out that, while D&D really has more in common with swords-and-sorcery literature in the vein of Howard and Leiber, it was the wide popularity of Tolkien's works that laid the groundwork for the fantasy roleplaying fad in the late 70s and early 80s. I think this squares well with Gygax's contention from 1974 on that the direct influence of Tolkien on D&D was superficial, while its influence on many gamers was significant.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Dr. Holmes, of course, didn't have an actual Appendix N, but he did digress briefly in his Fantasy Role Playing Games to give the reader his thoughts on the literary inspirations of both D&D in general and his own campaigns. This digression, I think, ought to viewed side by side with the even briefer comments made on the subject in the Blue Book, where he lists Tolkien, Leiber, Howard, Fox, and Greco-Roman mythology as the game's main inspirations.