Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Appendix N

I've already done a list of my desert island works of fantasy and science-fiction, but for today's installment of the A to Z Challenge, I thought I'd zoom in on the works of genre fiction that unambiguously influenced the games that I have played.

Risus Monkey's Appendix N (in rough order of game appearance)
  • The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien: I discovered Tolken and D&D at about the same time and the two will always remain linked in my mind. Additionally, my first stint as Game Master was done using MERP with a campaign set in Rhovanion. Much later, I ran a Risus one-shot set near Bree.
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming: I confess that this is the only Bond book that I have ever read (by Fleming), but we did play a lot of James Bond RPG when I was in high-school. It makes the list almost by default.
  • Swords and Deviltry, Swords Against Death, Swords in the Mist, Swords Against Wizardry,  The Swords of Lankhmar, Swords and Ice Magic, and The Knight and Knave of Swords by Fritz Leiber: Perhaps my single greatest literary influence, I ran a very successful Rolemaster Lankhmar campaign and then continued as a player in a sequel campaign using Gurps. After an unsuccessful attempt to start another Lankhmar game in college, I would later borrow the entire city as a recurring location in the Dreamlands of my Velvet Edge modern fantasy game. Just about a year ago, I had a blast collaborating in a play-by-post game of Risus Lankhmar using the Mythic GME.
  • Elric of Melniboné, The Sailor on the Seas of Fate, The Weird of the White Wolf, The Sleeping Sorceress, The Bane of the Black Sword, and Stormbringer by Michael Moorcock: I discovered the stories of Elric shortly after I discovered Tolkien and I am certain that there was a lot of subconscious influence on my gaming. The first direct influence occurred in the 90's when I opted to play a semi-redeemed sorceress from Pan Tang in a friend's dimension-hopping campaign. I think I did it just to play with demon-based sorcery but the character became more interesting for her strong personality. To this day, she remains one of my favorite characters.  
  • Elfquest by Wendy and Richard Pini: I was never hugely into the comics but I do remember incorporating the Pini look for elves into one of my campaign worlds. Some of that influence survived into recent games.
  • The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, The Case of Charles Dexter Ward, and no doubt many other stories by H.P. Lovecraft: It practically goes without saying that Lovecraft has bled into my games. Even in my current dimension-hopping game, the Necronomicon is practically an NPC and a whole world was destroyed by Mythos entities. But Lovecraft's Dream Cycle has had the most profound influence on my games, pretty much starting me on the whole idea of linking fantasy worlds through a shared Dreamlands. I pretty much lifted the plot of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward wholesale for an episode of Slaying Solomon. I also briefly ran a 1920's game set in New York that used a lot of Lovecraft.
  • To Your Scattered Bodies Go, The Fabulous Riverboat, and The Dark Design by Philip José Farmer: I remember reading these books after I purchased Gurps Riverworld (I was a Gurps completist at the time) and I really enjoyed the series. Too bad I never found the final books in the series. I ran a successful mini-campaign in Riverworld and later sent a team of extra-dimensional trouble-shooters there after killing them with a nuclear weapon. That was one of the coolest adventure setups that I ever pulled off.
  • The Sandman (graphic novels) by Neil Gaiman: These stories began my lifelong appreciation of the works of Neil Gaiman and they had a major influence on the development of my Velvet Edge modern fantasy game. I also pretty much lifted the plot of A Game of You for a different dimension-hopping one-shot.
  • Memory and Dream and other stories of Newford by Charles de Lint: Perhaps even more of an influence on my Velvet Edge campaign than The Sandman, this series provided a few plots and many re-skinned characters. More importantly, it really influenced my approach to the wainscot world of the supernatural at the edge of our perception. 
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker: The seminal work of vampire fiction and gothic literature, the character of Dracula has appeared in numerous games of mine.
  • Interview with the Vampire, The Vampire Lestat, The Queen of the Damned, and The Tale of the Body Thief by Anne Rice: I can't remember if I read Interview before I found the first edition of Vampire: The Masquerade or if it was the other way around. Either way, I was obsessed with vampires in the 90's and one of my favorite player characters was loosely based on Claudia.  
  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson: Naturally, my modern fantasy game was crawling with conspiracies. This book was a fabulous resource for that. And we did have a pseudo-Discordian player character in that 1920's game.
  • Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed: Similar to The Illuminatus! Trilogy, but almost more appropriate given my focus on urban culture and voodoo in Velvet Edge. A boon for the 1920's game set in New York as well.
  • Neuromancer by William Gibson: The Velvet Edge game transitioned from a straight Vampire game to a near-future cyberpunk Gurps Voodoo/Gurps Cyberworld hybrid. That cyberpunk feel came almost entirely from the works of William Gibson. 
  • Tales of the Slayer anthologies (various): When you run a Buffy the Vampire Slayer: RPG series for over six years, you need to pull ideas from wherever you can get them. I lifted many of my first season stories from these books (mostly because the players hadn't read them yet). 
  • Promethea by Alan Moore: It permanently changed how I approach magic and the higher planes of realty in my games.
  • Hellboy, B.P.R.D., and Lobster Johnson comics by Mike Mignola and others: These comic are loaded with weird history and strange folklore. My current Knights of the Astral Sea campaign has many elements of the Mignola-verse lurking under the surface.
  • The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells: Moreau made an appearance in our current campaign. He's still alive and waiting to cause trouble for the PC's again.
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (etc) by J.K. Rowling: Yeah, there is a lot of Hogwarts in the schools of Slaying Solomon.


Trey said...

You hit some of my favorites there (Lankhmar, Illuminatus! trilogy, Sandman, and Hellboy)--and given me so new ones to check out.

Risus Monkey said...

I think you'd might be particularly inspired by "Mumbo Jumbo" (it would mesh nicely with The City)

GeneD5 said...

Thanks for this list! I'm familiar with many of the works on it, but there's always more good stuff to read.