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September 17, 2018 0 comments

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Literary inspiration

Okay, after reading the Quickstarter and being quite pleased (I plan to run this at our bookshop's open gaming night in June), I have to ask: What's up with the literary inspiration mentioned on the back of the quickstarter?

I mean, Tolkien (as filtered through MERP and heyvy metal) is a given (even though I always had trouble associating the Professor's mild-mannered style with MERP, but that's another thing).

Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks seem to make perfect sense, each in their own way - Jordan for the epic scale and the mythological feel, Brooks for starting from Tolkien and then going quite wild ...

But Ursula K. LeGuin? I love her fiction beyond measure, but I really have a hard time association her with anything I've seen about VsD yet. The same goes for Terry Pratchett.

I won't get startet on Terry Goodkind ... I just can't stand him, but his work still might be a good fit for VsD in some ways - I just haven't read enough by him to know.

The author that I was thinking about most when reading VsD was actually Scott Bakker, who is kind of like an anti-Tolkien who picks up on some of the core motives of middle-earth, but twists them in some of the most dark and oppressive ways imaginable. A great author, to my mind, but also one that is hard to digest.

Hi Jakob, welcome to the forums!

Great topic, it may be worth of expanding it with few blog posts on our sources of inspirations in the future, but let me try to answer your questions here.

Le Guin's tales have been a huge inspiration for us when writing the magic system. Some the Earthsea's magic underlying concepts ("need alone is not enough to set power free; there must be knowledge" or the fact that every act of magic is dangerous and have costs and consequences, for example) are ingrained in VsD system, even if they aren't immediately apparent.
Plus, Passions: if you follow Ged's tale in A Wizard, you can almost see him evolving his Passions, following his "Heroic Path" as his tales unfold.
Note that some of these influences will become more clear once you'll read the Full Rules, as in the QS we were forced to cut out some options, like overcasting or the aforementioned Heroic Path.

Now, Goodkind. Yes, he's bad. Like, really bad. I've recently tried to re-read "Wizard's First Rule" but didn't even get through half of the book before putting it away. However, he has some tropes in common with the fiction that inspired VsD, so we thought of including him. There are probably others that are far more worthy of him, though.

About Bakker, The Darkness tha Comes Before has been sitting on my shelf for quite a long time now, it's probably time to pick it up!

Do not meddle in the affairs of Wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger.

Interesting, looking forward to seeing more of the magic system!

Give Bakker a try, I'd say he's really worth it! he kind of takes Tolkien and goes in the opposite direction from what Terry Brooks does: While Brooks makes the characters more relatable and the whole thing more exuberant, colorful and fun, Bakker doubles down on heavyness. While his first trilogy actually goes off on a tangent (it's all about a holy war, with the Big Bad only looming in the background), the follow-up series really goes right to the pitch-dark core of the setting's mythology. It's like Bakker is taking the sheer, crushingly inhuman mythological scale of the Silmarillion and building his books around it. Kind of like Tolkien read through Lovecraft (but as you've never known either author before), with a healthy dose of Clive Barker in horror mode.

Bakker's characters (with a few notable exceptions) usually show not a hint of modern morality; that makes them fascinating and also quite unlikeable (again, with some exceptions).

It would be hard to say that I love Bakker's books; but they definitely sucked me in (though the second series drags in the middle) and impressed me. And if you manage to get through all seven volumes, then you're in for quite a twist at the end!

Jakob, really interesting topic indeed!

What I can say from my side is that paradoxically I have never liked fantasy fiction too much, except for classic sword & sorcery and its subgenres (science fantasy, planetary romance) and gothic/weird. My preferred authors are R.E.Howard, C.A.Smith, and their heirs, like Sprague De Camp, Lin Carter, Poul Anderson. Never liked too much Moorcock, too.

As for epic fantasy, I read Tolkien's Silmarillion, Hobbit and LotR and something of the Lost Tales, but I think the literary quality of the Professor's work is highly debatable in terms of writing quality.  I find his writing boring, filled with irrelevant details, and his character development basically absent, or flat at best. I aknowledge however his huge influence as a world-crafter and myth-weaver.

I never liked (and perhaps never read) many of Tolkien's imitators. I read Le Guin's work once, a lot of time ago, but quite frankly it's not my cup of tea. However I recognize her huge influence in modeling any magic system different from Vancian magic. Skill-based Magic Systems owe a lot to Le Guin and also to (and here's where he's called) Pratchett. Never looked in depth at Jordan, Danielson, Brooks, Goodkind, I only read the first books from the Shannara saga, and didn't get past them, although I've been told that the later Brook's works are qualitatively much superior to the first trilogy, which only mocks Tolkien's work and not much more.

This said, I think there are a lot of authors that inspired us for Darkmaster that we didn't properly credited.
One of them is for sure Lloyd Alexander and his Chronicles of Prydain: huge inspiraton for our aesthetics, names, places - not to mention the look of our Darkmaster's avatar, totally inspired by the Horned King! We should probably mention him in the credits!
Weis & Hickman and their Dragonlance and Deathgate sagas have been of inspiration too: we took some ideas for nasty critters!

Then of course, we took inspiration too from modern fantasy authors. The bloody combat system seems a perfect fit for a George R. Martin's inspired game! The Passions and Drive, too. The same can be said for Martin's imitators, like Abercrombie. Personally, I think two of the most influential books of fantasy fiction I ever read were Poul Anderson's The Broken Sword and Three Hearts and Three Lions. I think we took something from there too - at least I, as an illustrator and art director!

For no one in this world you can trust, my son. Not man, not woman, not beast. But STEEL... this, you can trust!

Great to hear chronicles of Prydain mentioned - I haven't read them since childhood, but I still remember the first two books vividly. The Horned King, definitely!

Interesting that you mention Weis&Hickman's Death Gate Cycle - I can't really stand Dragonlance anymore, but the Death Gate Cycle is a quite fascinating fantasy series. Alfred and Haplo are great protagonists (and antagonists), I think the magic system was quite interesting, and I loved the elemental worlds concept, and there were some great creatures - like these strange, silent giants from the second book. I remember that the last three volumes weren't quite as satistying as the first four, but nevertheless, this is the best I've read by Weis&Hickman and a very solid and original fantasy series.

(Anecdote time: In my native language German, The Death-Gate Cycle was published under the series title "Die vergessenen Reiche", which literally translates into "The Forgotten Realms". Since I knew little about D&D back then, but knew that Weis&Hickman were writing D&D tie-in novels, I naturally assumed that the Death-Gate Cycle was set in D&D's Forgotten Realms. You can imagine my disappointment when I actually went and bought the grey box and it was nothing like what I'd expected ...)