Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5 Series to Inspire a Young (or Old) DM

From dark Discordia to the Isle of Roke. A list of series that inspired my ever-growing design.

A lot of my players and the DMs who ask questions at various forums and in Real Life ask me about the influences that give me some of my propulsion forward.  As I age like a cheese (gaining some new holes and interesting smells) I find myself looking back on some of the books that made me think differently on the worlds I build.  There are several books I have spoken of before that changed my thinking about specific topics, but what series showed me a bit of a narrative process?  In no particular order...

The Dark Tower, Stephen King
Bird  Bear Hare And Fish
Give My Love Her Fondest Wish

This little phrase shows one of the little touches that has been added to the Dark Tower universe over decades of growth.  The whole series of seven books and its accumulated short stories, graphic novels, and snippets in other books, developed a cycle of epic adventure.  King shows a world in its nuances; the prevailing themes of paranoia, conquest, and cyclical existence of a world that has moved on (and may yet return) screams for roleplaying love. 
King is an avid reader and writer, and even when he becomes his own Mary Sue he handles it in a way that is palatable.  The list of memorable 'NPCs' is so long as to be beyond the scope of this post.  Definitely worth a first, second, or nineteenth read for anyone who has their own ka-tet wandering personal Wastelands.

The Dresden Files
Harry Dresden - Wizard
Lost Items Found, Paranormal Investigations
Consulting, Advice, Reasonable Rates
No Love Potions, Endless Purses, Parties or Other Entertainment

Butcher has made a Chicago scarier than Chicago.  13 novels in the books have provided dozens of characters.  The idea of Linear Fighters and Quadratic Wizards is deconstructed as Dresden is what he is: A glass cannon who uses luck, genre savvy, and his friends to take down gods and monster.  From pious Knights to cowardly ectomancers, the mix of pulp and wizardry is amazing.  Oh . . . There is also a Zombie T-Rex.  Worth every penny to pick up the books.  Also a great version of FATE uses the Files as its background.  Check it out.

The Sandman
"'I am anti-life, the beast of Judgement.  I am the dark at the end of everything.  The end of universes, gods, worlds . . .'
'I am hope.'" -Morpheus Playing the Oldest Game.

Gaiman has contributed an Endless (pun intended) stream of interesting ideas about cultures you may or may not think of in Fantasy.  From the work in the storylines about the Arabian Nights to spinoffs on Death and the Lightbringer, Sandman created an entire universe on the borrowed and the redefined.
It also allowed Gaiman to gain clout to write one of his best works in American Gods, presenting us with a brilliant reimagining of old deities in the New World.  The concepts explored of time, space, the planes, and reality itself have definitely warped my views beyond the Great Wheel and its 'greatness'.

The Young Wizard Series:
In life's name and for Life's sake, I say that I will use the Art for nothing but the service of that Life.  I will guard growth and ease pain.  I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened.  To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so -- till Universe's End.
- The Wizard's Oath
Years before Harry Potter came onto the scene Diane Duane had a group of wizards fighting the Great Evil who were too young to have funny feelings about each other.  The series has amazing vistas from shadowy demenses shaped in the form of a demonic New York City, undersea courts of spellcasting aquatic life, and a battle fought by wizards bred of artificial intelligence and a love of Star Trek.  
Though some of the cultural references are dated, I still love these books today as much as I did picking them up as a younger man, and can find myself being inspired by them.  The Collector in my Prataferro setting and his Gift is based on the same concept as the Choice made by all sapient creatures in the series.  If you have kept your Child's Fantasy reading to Tolkien and Rowling I would recommend a dip.

A Wizard of Earthsea
To light a candle is to cast a shadow.

I can blame this book and the Earthsea series directly for my induction into the Fantasy Lovers Guild.  It follows the standard Hero's Journey through the Archipelago, the Isle of Roke, and adventures beyond telling.  As so many books can show I have always been a wandlover... I put full blame on Sparrowhawk and his misfits for my formative ideas on the Art in my early, fevered campaigns upon finding the wonders of Dungeons and Dragons.
Look beyond the horrible television miniseries, or hasty anime.  The series is worth a look.  With themes of light and dark, destruction and creation, and man's quest for power and eternity the book still has ripples I feel to this day as I re-read it.. My old copy, from my mother's hands, sits beside me as we speak.

I would love to hear about the series that directly affected your concept of fantasy.  If you have any specific books that tugged at your brain please comment about them, or you may email them to me and perhaps they will be added.

As Always,

Good Gaming.