The Books That Founded D&D

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The Books That Founded D&D

Beyond Tolkien and "Lord of the Rings," there were plenty of other authors and series that inspired the D&D series.

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I don't know if it's very sad or very awesome but I own works from all those authors....

I'm now imagining John Carter brandishing a long sword, going at the Barsoomians berserker-style... Which I wouldn't put it past him, since I haven't finished reading A Princess of Mars.

I have books from a lot of these authors especially H.P.Lovecraft and this just makes me want to go back and read them all or find a bunch of people to play D&D with, haven't done either in a long while.

I am one of the people who has perpetuated the notion that Tolkien led directly to D&D, mostly because of the intro to my comic:

http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=612

I knew it wasn't a strictly true assertion when I wrote it, but it was the set-up for the joke and I never expected many people would read it anyway. Hundreds of thousands of readers later, I have perhaps earned my share of the blame for giving JRRT too much credit and other authors not enough.

You forgot Michael Moorcock, who is probably the biggest influance on D&D aside from Tolkien and Vance (Jack Vance that is, which is where the spell memorization system came from). Indeed the entire Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic - Good/Neutral/Evil system came from Moorcock's works and at least to begin with sort of required an understanding of them to fully grasp.

The prescence of the Melnibonean Mythos in "Dieties and Demigods" was a big deal, and it was omitted alongside the Cthulhu mythos from later printings. It being noted that Nehwon (Fritz Leiber) being pretty much the only published universe to retain any kind of consistant connecton to D&D, though in the end I think it was one of the smaller influances actually.

"Books that founded D&D" Pfff i think the real question is "Books founded BY D&D"

oliveira8:
I don't know if it's very sad or very awesome but I own works from all those authors....

Same here. You can almost see the magic system growing from Jack Vance's work, and Fighters literally scream Robert E.Howard, as does most of Vallejo's artwork.

Therumancer:
You forgot Michael Moorcock, who is probably the biggest influance on D&D aside from Tolkien and Vance (Jack Vance that is, which is where the spell memorization system came from). Indeed the entire Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic - Good/Neutral/Evil system came from Moorcock's works and at least to begin with sort of required an understanding of them to fully grasp.

Think you missed this bit Rum,

Even more significantly, Anderson's conception of an eternal struggle between Law and Chaos inspired British author Michael Moorcock, whose own stories of Elric of Melniboné would in turn inspire the earliest versions of D&D's alignment system.

The_root_of_all_evil:

Therumancer:
You forgot Michael Moorcock, who is probably the biggest influance on D&D aside from Tolkien and Vance (Jack Vance that is, which is where the spell memorization system came from). Indeed the entire Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic - Good/Neutral/Evil system came from Moorcock's works and at least to begin with sort of required an understanding of them to fully grasp.

Think you missed this bit Rum,

Even more significantly, Anderson's conception of an eternal struggle between Law and Chaos inspired British author Michael Moorcock, whose own stories of Elric of Melniboné would in turn inspire the earliest versions of D&D's alignment system.

I did, but still it occurs to me that not having his name in bold (when I scanned it) is a bit much. What's more Elric of Melnibone is only a small part of his entire "Champion Eternal" cycle which is what was inspirational. Elric was simply one part of a greater story which also encompassed and directly crossed over with characters like "Hawkmoon". Hawkmoon's stories (The Mad God's Amulet, etc..) arguably being where the concepts behind alignments like "Lawful Evil", "Lawful Neutral", and "Lawful Good" are explored, that universe being almost entirely governed by order/technology.

Whether Moorcock was inspired by anyone else on that list, he himself had a bigger direct influance on D&D than just about anyone except maybe Tolkien and Howard.

Thanks for this article, I started playing D & D back in the origin days, and appreciate this kind of article. I used to come to the website for yatzee, and now I find that's just part of the draw for me. Keeps ups the good works!

Fondly,

Therumancer:
Whether Moorcock was inspired by anyone else on that list, he himself had a bigger direct influance on D&D than just about anyone except maybe Tolkien and Howard.

There's no doubt that Moorcock's works were influential upon D&D (particularly the Elric and Hawkmoon series), but direct references to these stories in the game are few. As I quoted, when Gary Gygax took the opportunity to note the strongest literary influences on the game in his estimation, he didn't mention Moorcock, even though Moorcock is consistently included in D&D bibliographies. Like Tolkien, I think Moorcock's influence tends to get overstated because their contemporary popularity makes their influence easy to spot, whereas how many people nowadays have even read Abraham Merritt or Fletcher Pratt and could point out all the many things D&D borrows from their writings?

oliveira8:
I don't know if it's very sad or very awesome but I own works from all those authors....

Very awesome, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. I'm sure you found many happy hours of reading, there - and that's really all there is to it. ;-)

Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories are awesome, and definitely bring D&D to mind. I'll have to check out some of these other authors - Abraham Merritt sounds interesting in particular.

Shamus Young:
I am one of the people who has perpetuated the notion that Tolkien led directly to D&D, mostly because of the intro to my comic:

http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=612

I knew it wasn't a strictly true assertion when I wrote it, but it was the set-up for the joke and I never expected many people would read it anyway. Hundreds of thousands of readers later, I have perhaps earned my share of the blame for giving JRRT too much credit and other authors not enough.

I actually thought that DM of the Rings was excellent in that it seemed (to me, anyway) to point out the fact that when played as straight as possible, the Lord of the Rings - the work that many, many people take to exemplify everything that is D&D - actually makes for some outstandingly BAD Dungeons & Dragons gaming - which (again, to me) seemed to be poking fun at the idea that LotR led directly to D&D in the eyes of many gamers.

The intro to the comic sort of reinforces that joke, for me.

Therumancer:

The_root_of_all_evil:

Therumancer:
You forgot Michael Moorcock, who is probably the biggest influance on D&D aside from Tolkien and Vance (Jack Vance that is, which is where the spell memorization system came from). Indeed the entire Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic - Good/Neutral/Evil system came from Moorcock's works and at least to begin with sort of required an understanding of them to fully grasp.

Think you missed this bit Rum,

Even more significantly, Anderson's conception of an eternal struggle between Law and Chaos inspired British author Michael Moorcock, whose own stories of Elric of Melniboné would in turn inspire the earliest versions of D&D's alignment system.

I did, but still it occurs to me that not having his name in bold (when I scanned it) is a bit much. What's more Elric of Melnibone is only a small part of his entire "Champion Eternal" cycle which is what was inspirational. Elric was simply one part of a greater story which also encompassed and directly crossed over with characters like "Hawkmoon". Hawkmoon's stories (The Mad God's Amulet, etc..) arguably being where the concepts behind alignments like "Lawful Evil", "Lawful Neutral", and "Lawful Good" are explored, that universe being almost entirely governed by order/technology.

Whether Moorcock was inspired by anyone else on that list, he himself had a bigger direct influance on D&D than just about anyone except maybe Tolkien and Howard.

Good to see somene else that's into Elric. You guys are hard to find.

Blood and souls for Arioch!

Fascinating! It's not everyday that this place actually teaches me something.

Although now I have a terrible temptation to start another D&D group just to throw some of my stuffiest, by-the-book-fantasy, rule-lawyering friends against Martian horrors.

Very interesting. You've just added to my list of books to read, thanks!

I've read some of the books by Poul Anderson, Jack Vance and Edgar Rice Burroughs but not all of the ones listed. I hadn't even heard of Abraham Merritt or Fritz Leiber before. Time to head to my local library and delve into some classic fantasy books! The ones about Fafhrd and The Gray Mouser sound interesting.

Wildrow12:
Fascinating! It's not everyday that this place actually teaches me something.

Although now I have a terrible temptation to start another D&D group just to throw some of my stuffiest, by-the-book-fantasy, rule-lawyering friends against Martian horrors.

Yeah, wouldn't that be something: to make a D&D quest in which a group of classic D&D heroes find themselves having to fight aliens on Mars. I'll have to read those Burroughs books too. Who knows, maybe we'll start a new "world" in D&D set on Barsoom (Mars) that will be as big if not bigger than Eberon or Forgotten Realms.

Now that I think of it, some of the D&D worlds do seem to have a bit of an alien world quality to them. Take for example the lands in the Dragonlance book series. As I remember, they see two moons in the sky and different constellations than Earth people see.

Maybe D&D has more in common with "Soft" Science Fiction (as opposed to "Hard" S.F. which tends to focus more on technology and imagined advances in the sciences) than most of us ever thought.

Merrik Waters:
"Books that founded D&D" Pfff i think the real question is "Books founded BY D&D"

Almost none of quality.

I concur that Tolkien had no greater influence and perhaps less on D&D then the other works mentioned. Back when I was playing D&D AND reading Tolkien, nearly three decades ago, I found it pretty hard to assimilate the two, to the point I gave up quickly and just accepted they were apples and oranges.

Each are separately works of genius in their own way. Of the two I bet D&D will have the more staying power. Watching the LotR movies almost felt like an homage to a fantasy world that is not so much aging as growing old.

dukethepcdr:

Wildrow12:
Fascinating! It's not everyday that this place actually teaches me something.

Although now I have a terrible temptation to start another D&D group just to throw some of my stuffiest, by-the-book-fantasy, rule-lawyering friends against Martian horrors.

Yeah, wouldn't that be something: to make a D&D quest in which a group of classic D&D heroes find themselves having to fight aliens on Mars. I'll have to read those Burroughs books too. Who knows, maybe we'll start a new "world" in D&D set on Barsoom (Mars) that will be as big if not bigger than Eberon or Forgotten Realms.

Now that I think of it, some of the D&D worlds do seem to have a bit of an alien world quality to them. Take for example the lands in the Dragonlance book series. As I remember, they see two moons in the sky and different constellations than Earth people see.

Maybe D&D has more in common with "Soft" Science Fiction (as opposed to "Hard" S.F. which tends to focus more on technology and imagined advances in the sciences) than most of us ever thought.

You speak the truth. I recall several AD&D Monster Manuals focusing on actual alien races (complete with laser guns and the like) as well as, the standard horrors and miscreants. I guess if D&D were run more as a Soft Sci-Fi setting (closer to Pulp , I would wager) the campaign would look something like Krull.

That actually sounds fairly awesome!

Vierran:
I have books from a lot of these authors especially H.P.Lovecraft and this just makes me want to go back and read them all or find a bunch of people to play D&D with, haven't done either in a long while.

Lovecraft is only one of the greatest writers who ever lived...in my own opinion of course =D

This article is really great!

I'd love to see more of this sort of thing on The Escapist. Digging back to the roots of different aspects of gaming is something I find fascinating. Even better when - as in the case of books - it's still possible to experience old creative works first hand!

So.... how about C.S. Lewis?

good article

While all the ignorant critics are crying LOTR ripoff at every fantasy story, we know that that popular fantasy goes much further back: the LOTR was published in the 50s, while a series like Conan was published back in the 30s.

domicius:
So.... how about C.S. Lewis?

While Lewis definitely drapes his fictional work in fantastical settings, the Christian overtones and knowledge of his other works may work against his influence in the genre. Especially in a contemporary audience, most fantasy fans would rather not have a major protagonist who's an allegory for Jesus.

Excellent article. Many of these authors have indeed been forgotten, due to their books being out of print, or dying (or both!). A great walk down memory lane, and it reminds me to head online to pick up a few titles I've misplaced or lost over the years!

thanks for this imma raid the library now

James Maliszewski:

Therumancer:
Whether Moorcock was inspired by anyone else on that list, he himself had a bigger direct influance on D&D than just about anyone except maybe Tolkien and Howard.

There's no doubt that Moorcock's works were influential upon D&D (particularly the Elric and Hawkmoon series), but direct references to these stories in the game are few. As I quoted, when Gary Gygax took the opportunity to note the strongest literary influences on the game in his estimation, he didn't mention Moorcock, even though Moorcock is consistently included in D&D bibliographies. Like Tolkien, I think Moorcock's influence tends to get overstated because their contemporary popularity makes their influence easy to spot, whereas how many people nowadays have even read Abraham Merritt or Fletcher Pratt and could point out all the many things D&D borrows from their writings?

Well, I would also point out things like the "Intelligent Weapon" rules and ego contests and such to begin with back in AD&D which stylistically is very Moorcockian (lol) as conflicts like that happen in a lot of his books. Everything he writes even apart from the original four hero cycle (Elric, Hawkmoon, Corum, and Erekose) involving the same concepts, and arguably the same character with or without the memories of his other counterparts. Even Sojan The Swordsman was fit into the mythos.

I think Michael Moorcock is missing from a lot of the referances simply for copyrights. Consider that Chaosium bought both the rights to Elric (and arguably the entire Moorcock Multiverse... the concept of a multiverse also being something that I believe Gygax took from him) as well as Call Of Cthulhu. This lead to the removal of both of those mythos from AD&D's Deities and Demigods later on down the road.

Being sword and sorcery it would be much easier for someone to go after him if he admitted to taking influance from Moorcock later on, while Cthulhu is relatively easy to sidestep since it had little to do with sword and sorcery to begin with.

I also get the impression that TSR and it's decendant companies have had a bug up their collective butts about that property because it was a big deal. I notice for example that while we did see a D20 "Dragon Lords Of Melnibone" sourcebook written under the OGL, Cthulhu saw an official D20 book, complete with a hardcover adventure that is almost the equal of classics like "Masks Of Nylarthotep" or "Horror On The Orient Express".

I suppose it can't truely be resolved, but truthfully I think Moorcock is one of the most influential forces on D&D, and western fantasy in general. Heck years ago when they did "The Invisibles" (comic series) they even fit some Jeremiah Cornelius referances in there. :P

Having started a Classic D&D campaign this year, I went out and read (and re-read in some cases) many of these inspirations to help guide my vision for the campaign. I think the result has been worthwhile in helping me break out of strict fantasy. Our party recently found a laser sword...

> Lovecraft was unique in his time for combining a Gothic literary sensibility with a philosophy that downplayed humanity's importance in the universe. Though Lovecraft's worldview is in some ways antithetical to that presented in D&D, many of the game's monsters are clearly inspired by his stories...

Not at all antithetical IMHO since D&D was not created by EGG alone, although his general humanocentric worldview did win out as the majority expression given in the somewhat skeletal ruleset as first published (minus any campaign world).

Once again, what /didn't/ get published explicitly is at least as important as what did and to say that "many of the game's monsters are clearly inspired by his (Lovecraft's) stories" is to overlook that Lovecraft was explicitly hooked into the core of the game prior to publication rather than just as recycled monsters later and a fleeting glimpse in Deities and Demigods. A large chunk of the Mythos was statted out right back at the start and anyone wandering under Greyhawk City when Rob Kuntz was in charge would have needed to be careful, I suspect, far less in any interplanar adventuring (which was certainly not of the Zelazny variety *jk*).

So it's safe to say that Dejah Thoris founded the cliché of chainmail bikini female protagonists?

And the sight which met my eyes was that of a slender, girlish figure, similar in every detail to the earthly women of my past life... Her face was oval and beautiful in the extreme, her every feature was finely chiseled and exquisite, her eyes large and lustrous and her head surmounted by a mass of coal black, waving hair, caught loosely into a strange yet becoming coiffure. Her skin was of a light reddish copper color, against which the crimson glow of her cheeks and the ruby of her beautifully molded lips shone with a strangely enhancing effect.

She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

I can understand why she is the subject of many a vigorous fanart, and why this sterotype isn't very helpful to attract the female audience. This might make for an interesting article.

Woem:
So it's safe to say that Dejah Thoris founded the cliché of chainmail bikini female protagonists?

To be fair, nearly everyone on Barsoom runs around near-naked, John Carter included. That said, I think it plausible that Burroughs set a modern precedent for scantily-clad protagonists that later fantasy writers followed.

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