Monday, June 4, 2012

Re-Imagining the Classic D&D Monster: The Ghoul

Monsters make the campaign. For that reason, I've never been afraid to ignore monster manual cookie cutter descriptions as presented. I've been known to do my own thing. Some players yell "CHEATER!" when my monsters don't jive with the printed MM and I've had players sit before me, thumping their fingers upon the "official" monster description telling me that I am wrong. I generally let them rant and rave, then remind them of rule #1: Dungeon Master Fiat.

Ghouls being an undead creature has never rhymed well for me. My take has always been more in tune with ghouls as presented in GURPS: Fantasy Creatures, that is as a living race which feasts upon the dead. My ghouls live in or near cemeteries for ravenous need. Their lairs are crypts or barrows hidden in or near cemeteries.

The following is presented under the Open Gaming License. All rules quoted are from The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game copyrighted by Chris Gonnerman. It is easily adapted to your favorite fantasy role-playing game of choice.

"Ghoulism" is a disease, mystical in nature. Most often, ghoulism infects necromancers, or any other living creature that is obsessed with death. Those in the first stage of infection often find themselves panting and sweating in bed after having a bout of night terrors. These night terrors often involve dreams in which the infected is feasting upon corpses. Slowly, the infected finds that she gains no sustenance from typical foods and after a period of a few days, typical foods cause severe stomach cramps and there is yearning for dead flesh. The sight of a corpse, fresh or otherwise, will cause salivation. The smell is invigorating. There is hope for a cure at this stage. A Cure Disease, cast immediately before a Bless by a Cleric of at least 6th level will cure the infected. Being anointed with Holy Water will not cure, but it will help ease suffering (+1 on Save vs Paralysis or Petrify, see below). The casting of a Remove Curse by a cleric of 9th level or higher will also restore the infected to health.

Physically, in the first stage, the infected becomes gaunt and cadaverous in appearance. An odor of rotting flesh is an undercurrent of vile perfume radiating from her body. Within a few days, her gums blacken and soon her teeth begin to fall out. The next day the small pointed tips of jagged, razor like canines begin to peek through her blackened gums. Shortly, she notices that her nails are elongating, becoming hard and pointed.

After being cured at the first stage of the disease, the character slowly regains her lost constitution points, and with time, her appearance reverts to normal; although, she may retain a gaunt appearance as a reminder of what almost was.

If the infected is not cured within the first week of contraction, then a Save vs Paralysis or Petrify must be made daily. Failure results in a constitution drop of one point per day. If constitution drops below half, or to five (whichever is lower) the infected becomes a ghoul. If at any time during the first stage the infected gives into her yearnings, the change is automatic. At this point, the mystical disease can only be removed with the casting of a Remove Curse by a cleric of 9th level or higher, an unwilling ghoul may save versus Spell to resist. Any constitution points lost as a result of the first stage are now regained in the second stage.

Now her appearance is definitely ghoulish. Her former teeth are all gone, replaced by a jagged row of razor sharp canines meant for rending flesh. The hands she views at her wrists end in only what can be described as talons. Her eyes become a dull yellow, and her tongue is a black, elongated slug. It is possible for her to hide her appearance, but not without the proper spells. The smell of death and decay issues strongly from her pores. She tries to hide this with strong perfume, but now she smells of death and lilacs.

Curing her at this point in the disease, her constitution automatically drops to half (or five, whichever is higher); however, this is not a permanent reduction. She will gain them back normally, minus 1 point for every month spent in the second stage. If she was afflicted in the second stage for a year or more, then the loss is permanent, short of a Restoration being cast upon her. She will always maintain a gaunt and slightly cadaverous appearance, and her moldering smell will be disquieting.

As ghoulism is normally caught by those traveling the path of necromancer, it is not uncommon for ghouls to be magic-users, and also rarely clerics of a death god. In this case, the ghoul is treated as an NPC of appropriate class and level (typically 4th, but ghouls of higher or lower levels are possible). Even ghouls in the second stage of ghoulism that are not leveled NPC's with a character class have the ability to cast Speak with Dead as a cleric of 6th level. This is accomplished by the ghoul at least partially eating the corpse, after which the ghoul may enter into a sort of hypnotic state. After 1 to 3 rounds (depending upon how much of the corpse the ghoul ate, more equals less), the corpse will answer questions per the spell description of the same name. This ability makes ghouls sometimes sought after by adventurers and savants.

Ghoul characters often accept their fate at this point. Some form alliances with mages, death cults and even thieves guilds. It should be noted that while their claws and teeth are usable as weapons, for the most part ghouls attack with weapons and prefer missile weapons versus moving in close. They are not combatants and will avoid it if possible with the use of guile and spells, if available.

The third stage of ghoulism is more comparable to the standard ghoul description as described in most D&D type monster manuals. It is not known why the ghoul eventually devolves to this state, nor is there a set pattern on how soon it will happen, but eventually the madness takes the infected down the last road of depravity. At this stage, the ghoul is a raving monster. Ghouls in the second stage of the disease will hunt down those in the third stage and destroy them. This is done out of self-protection. Ghoul societies are by necessity small and secretive. A raving ghoul brings unwanted attention. Subsequently, Ghouls in the second stage of the disease will also seek out those in the first stage and most often destroy them for the same reason; however, there are rare cases of mercy being taken upon these souls and they might be inducted into the ghoul society after they ease them into the second stage by serving them their first feast. Ghouls who reach the third stage cannot be cured of the mystical disease. They are lost and their only salvation is in death.

The ghoul in the third stage appears much as the second, but her mind is gone. The mold and mud of the graveyard is no longer removed from her clothing. No attempt is made to hide what she is.

Ghoulism may also be contracted from the bite of a ghoul; fortunately, only those ghouls in the third stage would risk spreading ghoulism in this fashion (although a confused infected in the first stage might as well). In addition to saving versus paralyzation to avoid the standard ghoul attack, if a character is bitten, a second save must be made versus paralysis to avoid contracting the disease. This is only for bites. Elves are immune to the paralysis of the ghoul and are immune to the disease. There are rare cases of cannibals contracting ghoulism by eating "tainted" meat (a corpse infected with ghoulism).

As ghouls are not undead, they can not properly be turned; however, a successful turn attempt by a cleric of 1st to 11th level will cause the ghoul to pause for a round (treat the ghoul as "surprised" for combat). This result is automatic for clerics of 12th to 14th level. Clerics of 15th to 20th level do not "destroy" the ghoul (as per normal), but the ghoul will attempt to flee from the cleric's awesome display of faith. It is also possible for a cleric of 15th or higher level to be allowed to command a ghoul, if the cleric is of a sufficiently evil bent. Take note that leveled and classed ghouls are not so easily turned. A classed ghoul of 3rd level is treated as a Wight, a 4th as a Wraith, a 5th as a Mummy, a 6th as a Specter, 7th or higher as a Vampire. The above effects for turning are used as level appropriate (i.e. a 5th level Magic-user Ghoul: a 1st to 5th level Cleric has no effect, a 6th to 17th level cleric may "pause" the ghoul, while an 18th to 20th level may cause the ghoul to run away in fear. A ghoul of this level could not be commanded).

Other than those items noted above, the ghoul stats from your favorite monster listing is used, with the "standard" ghoul from said book standing as a ghoul in the third stage of ghoulism. Those in the first stage would have their normal attributes/statistics, and please take note; ghoulism is not regulated to just humans. There can be orc-ghouls, ghouls, hobgoblin-ghouls, or even kobold-ghouls (twisted, and a bit funny, but go for it), just not elf ghouls (unless you really don't like elves and wish to ignore said rule--see rule #1 DM Fiat); hence, a ghoul in the first or second stage could have all sorts of wacky attributes/statistics. If you allow monsters to have classes in your campaigns, things could get really interesting. Consider a 3rd level Cleric, Lizard Man Ghoul. Undead should not be ghouls. It's your call if Lycanthropes, but it is my view that one mystical disease is probably enough.

There is a reason that elves are immune to ghoulism, or at least the legend of a reason. It seems the first ghouls were the product of an experiment conducted by elves. Many elves, deny it. Some of them say it was the drow


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Post at CROM!

I published the second and final part of my look at The Dark Man: The Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies. It can be read here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day Gaming

This little blog has been neglected as of late. My energies have been directed towards writing for CROM!, which is something I enjoy. This blog was originally supposed to be about my role playing games, particularly those in an old-school vein; however, I just have not had the time for role playing as of late, and do not see myself being able to alleviate that anytime soon.

I am gaming, but my gaming energies have been directed towards board games. Tonight being no exception. I just returned from a camping trip, and am hosting an after Memorial Day BBQ with a romping game of Smallworld.

I had intentions of reviewing those board games I do play, but keeping track of "hits" on my posts, and a lack of comments, it seems my few readers who do frequent this blog take no interest in that and that is fine. I can place those elsewhere.

In the mean time, I am going to find the energy to do some actual gaming related posts, role playing that is. I don't feel I have much to offer the old-school community; there are others who do a wonderful job at that.  I am going to gear up my energies to produce gaming aids that are universal towards game systems.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Post up at Crom!

In this post, I explore The Dark Man journal. It can be found here.

Monday, May 7, 2012

REVIEW: Mansions of Madness

Mansions of Madness
Introduction: The group and I got together last week to try out Fantasy Flights, Mansions of Madness. From the product description:

During each game, investigator players explore an eerie location in the hopes of solving a mystery before it’s too late. Investigators win or lose as a team, and need to keep their wits about them to find the artifacts, weapons, and clues needed to stop the keeper’s diabolical plot. The keeper’s goal is to fulfill an evil scheme, which can range from driving the investigators insane to bringing about the end of the world. The keeper’s weapons are fear, paranoia... and terrifying monsters. Can a handful of brave investigators uncover the truth in time, or will the wicked plans of the keeper come to fruition? 

It is a game for 2-5 players that plays in 2 to 3 hours. Our game lasted 2.5 hours.

The Skinny: Similar to Arkahm Horror in the sense that players take on the role of Investigators, the addition of a competing player, as the Keeper, gives the game an odd, yet cool feel of being a cooperative game, yet being competitive at the same time.  MoM is a Lovecraft Mythos inspired board game.

The game comes with several scenarios and there are expansions available to add more. Many of them are print on demand.

The Good: The four of us had a blast with this game, and that is the most important judgement of any game. It is very handsome, and the plastic figures included with the game would work well with Arkham Horror as well (which I reviewed here), Call of Cthulhu, and/or your favorite fantasy game. As to how lovely it is, I will let my shoddy pictures, taken from my game table, speak for the game.

The Bad: MoM is a tile based game and as with any tile based game, the tiles slide around easily. Our Keeper solved this with an inexpensive mat, the kind you line your kitchen cabinets with to keep dishes off the bottom of the cabinets themselves. This worked splendidly, and I plan on stealing his idea the next time I play a tile based game such as Settlers of Catan.

The Ugly: I have nothing "ugly" to say about this game. It really is that good!

Summary: This is a great game; especially if your are a H.P. Lovecraft/Mythos enthusiast like me. Buy it. Play it. I guarantee it will not collect dust on your shelf.

New Post at CROM!

Over at CROM! I posted my review of Andrew J. Offutt's Conan: The Sword of Skelos. Check it out, and while you're there, check out a lot of other great stuff that is there and has been there for some time now.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

New Post at CROM!

I have a new post at CROM! If you're a long time reader of my little blog here, it may seem eerily familiar. It is a re-write that I posted here about the Sword & Sorcery tales of John Jakes. The original can be found here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I have been invited to blog at CROM! I am excited to be a part of that team, so if you enjoy Conan and/or Robert E. Howard, please join me there. I will continue to post here as well, but there will be changes. More on those when I figure out what exactly they will be.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Andrew J. Offutt: The Conan Pastiche

Introduction: Around the age of 12, I read a steady diet of Conan pastiche. A Conan pastiche (to me the word "pastiche" sounds like a good cheese) is a story featuring the character Conan, but not written by Howard (although a pastiche is not a cheese, some Conan pastiche are indeed cheesy). It was not until the recent publication of Howard's works in their unadulterated entirety that I made the move from a "works of Howard fan" to a "Robert E. Howard fan". While I am now solidly in the camp of REH Fans, I am not a pastiche snob, meaning, I will give a pastiche a good shake without immediate dismissal. Some recent lucky finds at a yard sale have given me liberty to dive into the realm of Conan pastiche. Some works I am re-reading after 25 years, others I am reading for the first time.

The Skinny: Conan and the Sorcerer and Conan The Mercenary were written in 1978 and 1980 respectively. They were published by Ace Fantasy, written by Andrew J. Offutt and featured about 50 internal illustrations each by the artist Esteban Maroto.  They were written as "Mercenary" being a sequel of sorts to "Sorcerer"; however, Offutt recaps the events of "Sorcerer" in "Mercenary" well enough that either could be read independently of the other. A third book exists, The Sword of Skelos, that I have not read which makes a trilogy. Andrew J. Offutt has written much Howard pastiche for the character Cormac Mac Art and is also known for his stories adding to the "Thieves World" series, particularly for the creation of the character Shadowspawn. Offutt is also well known for editing the Swords Against Darkness volumes. Esteban Maroto is no stranger to Howard's creations either. He created the famous chain-mail bikini worn by the Howard inspired, but Roy Thomas created, character Red Sonja and was at the forefront of the "Spanish" invasion of comics during the 1970's. His early works were featured in the Warren Publishing titles Creepy, Eerie, and Vampirella.

The plot (SPOILERS ALERT): The two stories take place shortly after Howard's tale "The Tower of the Elephant", feature a very young Conan (his age is placed at 17 in the books) in search of wealth and adventure. The plot of "Sorcerer" has Conan trying to steal a relic called the Eye of Erlik from a sorcerer's tower. While doing so, he stumbles across two other thieves who beat him to the prize; however, it is Conan who is caught by the sorcerer, one Hisarr Zul. Zul is a sorcerer that steals men's souls and forces their soulless bodies into his servitude. Conan encounters some of Hisarr Zul's soulless guardians and is freaked out by them. As punishment for his attempted burglary, Hisarr Zul steals Conan's soul and traps it in a mirror. He then places Conan on a quest to steal back the Eye of Erlik from the thief that made off with it (a lovely she-thief named Isparana). In "Mercenary", after recovering the Eye of Erlik and slaying Hisarr Zul (events which occurred in "Sorcerer"), Conan has recovered the mirror that holds his soul, but is still separated from his soul within. He sells his services to a young, lovely lady noble named Khastris. Conan journeys with her to her homeland in hopes that her cousin, the Queen of Khauran, can join him with his soul (he learned from a sand lich in "Sorcerer" that one way of retrieving his soul is to have the mirror shattered by one wearing a crown). In Khauran, he gets embroiled in a sorcerous plot to take over the kingdom.

The Good: Offutt does not attempt to imitate Howard; instead, he writes in his own voice. This is something I prefer in pastiche versus someone trying to sound like Howard. While Offutt is not, in my opinion, the strongest of writers, he is accomplished enough to push a "Howardesque" yarn along. Complementing Offutt's writing are a healthy dose of illustrations by Esteban Maroto. See examples (with my apologies for my slip-shod photography):
Conan battling the Sand-Lich (Conan and the Sorcerer)

Illustration of Isparana of Zamboula (Conan And the Sorcerer)

Conan rescuing Lady Khashtris from night assassins (Conan the Mercenary

Conan brooding over his murdered lover (Conan the Mercenary)

The Good (continued): The highlight of both short novels for me was Conan's encounter with the Sand-Lich. An indestructible creature clearly out of his league, Offutt doesn't miss a chance to highlight Howard's character and his defiance of death and giving up. All in all, Offutt writes a fast paced yarn, full of well written fight scenes. His portrayal of Hyborea is well done, written with simple, yet effect prose.

The Bad: While I found "Sorcerer" an enjoyable, if forgettable read, "Mercenary" held far less appeal for me. There were three main reasons for this. 1. "Mercenary" lacks a memorable villain. There is a sorcerer introduced in the prologue of the story, but he never makes another appearance. In the prologue, the sorcerer uses his dark arts to make an aging baron appear years younger. The baron hopes to use his young appearing form to strengthen his place in a circle of nobles that have denied him respect and power. It is never explained what this mysterious sorcerer is gaining from this. 2. An interesting back story is set up with the Queen of Khauran, each generation will see the birth of a witch that must be killed. Because of this curse the Queen kills her own child. This has much potential, but is not exploited in the story and rests as back ground noise. 3. Offutt has Conan playing detective in this story, and in the climax, Conan disguises himself as a seer in order to ensnare plotters against the throne in a trap. This rung untrue for me. While I recognize that Conan, as told by Howard, was more intelligent then most give him credit for, it just didn't seem very "Conan-like" to me.

The Ugly: The biggest crime committed in the two short novels occurs in "Mercenary". Offutt commits the crime of "telling versus showing". In about three short paragraphs, he narrates a tale of how Conan is kicked out of the courts of Khauran, falls in love and later in that chapter, broods over the murdered corpse of his young lover vowing that from here on out he will not fall in love. It was way too much story crowded into a short narrative chapter.

Odd Observations: The sand creatures that Conan battled in the 2011 movie Conan the Barbarian share a similarity to Offutt's Sand-Lich in "Sorcerer"; I wonder if there was an inspiration here? The 1997 - 1998 TV series Conan the Adventurer, features as a main villain a sorcerer named Hissah Zuhl (played by Jeremy Kemp). The names Hissah Zuhl and Hisarr Zul strike a certain similarity that again makes me wonder, was Offutt's idea aped for the series?

Conclusion: While I wouldn't recommend these stories as a nice jumping on point for potential Howard enthusiasts, I would recommend them at least as decently written pastiche without glaring non-Howardian faults. The illustrations by Esteban Maroto help elevate them on the list for Conan pastiche collectors, if not as must-haves, then certainly as entertaining curiosities.  

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Random Encounter 3: The Secret of Kopao Cave

This is a location based encounter. It is inspired by the article "Last of the Cave People" by Mark Jenkins in the February 2012 issue of National Geographic. In the article, Jenkins and photographer Amy Toensing follow the Meakambut , the last of the nomadic cave dwellers still residing in Papua New Guinea. It is an interesting article and I encourage you to seek it out; however, as a disclaimer in this encounter I portray the nomadic cave dwellers as antagonists. This is fantasy and in no way am I proposing that the Meakambut are a savage people. In the article, Jenkins does make mention that the Meakambut do believe, and are terrified of, sorcery. At one point, he fears for his safety as a member of the Meakambut led him to a cave sacred to them called Kopao and told him the secret of the cave. That night John, the member of the Meakambut tribe that led Jenkins to Kopao and told him the secret of the cave, had terrible dreams. In his dreams, his ancestors were angry at him for telling the Meakambut's secrets to a white man. That morning, a member of the tribe fell terribly ill with pneumonia. Jenkins feared that if the ill member were to die, he would be blamed. That story is the kernel for this random encounter.

This encounter takes place in a jungle environment. It can be run as an outdoor adventure, perhaps a hex or two, or several must be explored as the exact location of Kopao Cave is not known. Random encounters with jungle beasts are possible. I myself am always fond of Robert E. Howard inspired giant snakes, not to mention savage apes. Of course the less mundane critters from your favorite monster manual could always be added. The tribes that live in the area do not welcome outsiders. The subsist from hunting and gathering. The intrusion of outsiders can disrupt their hunting and gathering by either killing game or scaring it away. In either case, they are very protective and will deal with all outsiders. They prefer not to attack openly; instead, they will rely upon their superior knowledge of the area and set traps for the party, or attempt to lead them into dangerous areas. If they must attack, they prefer to do so from high up in the jungle foliage. They are experts at camouflage, and their weapons of choice are poisoned tipped javelins and darts. If forced into a face to face melee, they wear little armor, but do make use of small wooden shields and long curved knives of bone (which also may be poisoned).

The characters have heard stories whispered that amongst the nomadic jungle tribes, there is a sacred cave with a secret. If time and resources are spent discovering what this secret is, they will find vague creation myths. Basically, the tribes of the area believe that they were "birthed" from Kopao cave and that it is a conduit which leads directly to their gods. They do not frequently visit the cave, but do take the skulls of honored members of their tribes there to be put to rest. This is an honor. Rumor is, that these honored members (chiefs and great warriors and hunters) are put to rest with valuable treasures. What these treasures might be is up to the DM, but rumors of gold and relics should be discovered to entice the players to find Kopao cave.

Kopao cave should not be easy to find. Much exploring must be done. Even when the location is discovered, the party must make a dangerous climb up a vertical face that even thieves will have a hard time with without the proper equipment. Of course the tribes of the area set traps for the unwary as safe guards.

Entering Kopao cave, the players hunch under a low overhang that only halflings will not find uncomfortable to enter. Within, they are greeted by a gantlet of skulls, most of which are green with age, but others appear more recent. Past the skulls are numerous hand prints stenciled in blood. The hand prints are the first indication of the true secret of Kopao cave. Once a year, the tribes select one of their best hunters as a sacrifice. He is brought to the cave. As an honor, he is cut, then dipping his hand into a saucer of his own blood, he makes his mark amongst those of the past sacrifices. This honor completed, the ritual begins and he is sacrificed to appease the dwellers of the cave. There are indeed treasures left beyond the hand prints, these too are left to appease the dweller of the cave. Here the players will find large feathers, the hollow avian bones of which are full of fine gold dust and capped with a gum made from the sap of trees. There are also garments spun from fine fabrics and favored weapons, some of which are magical. These are there for the taking, if the players can deal with the dweller first.

What is the dweller? Think Lovecraftian. Kopao cave is portal that leads to another dimension. Luckily, it is weak and the dweller can only enter from its dimension no farther then the cave. There is a large crack in the ceiling. It is about twenty feet long, and three hand spans wide. From this crack, an odor is noted. An odor reminiscent of rotten fish, but not overpowering. It is as if dead fish were stuffed into the crack, left for a few weeks, then removed a week ago. Magic-users and elves get an uneasy feeling in close proximity to the crack. Their stomachs feel queasy and they find the hairs on the nape of their necks stand up, they may also get goose bumps. The closer one gets to the crack, the cooler the air temperature becomes. Standing right beneath it, the air is so cool, one shivers. A darkness in noticed within the crack. Torches and lanterns will not illuminate it, a light spell does not even penetrate it. Voices are heard from the within the crack. Whispers in a language that none can fathom. The hushed whisper increases into a present drone. Finally, a tentacle slithers from the crack, followed by another. That is when the darkness radiates from the crack acting as a Darkness spell.

Now is when the characters, if they are smart, run. I use insanity rules in my games, and would require sanity checks. If they stick around to fight it out, they most likely will perish. They should be able to grab some treasure and run before all hell breaks loose.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Adventure Idea -- The Hunger Games

My daughter has been begging my wife and I to read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games for a long time now. She was excited about the movie coming out and was disappointed that I wouldn't be in town to see it with her opening weekend. To make up for my absence, I borrowed her copy of the book for my business trip and promised to read it.

I finished tonight and found it an enjoyable read; however, this isn't a review. From the get go, I was reminded of a Dungeons & Dragons session I ran when I was in the seventh or eighth grade that had a strikingly similar set up.

I was twelve when I first started out as a dungeon master, and I quickly earned a reputation for killing characters. It was a badge of honor for me at the time. I strove to come up with novel ways of pitting my players characters against great odds. I didn't kill them all, but most. To this day, I've never actually killed a player, just their characters.

In the session I ran, I had my five players start out as convicted prisoners that were sentenced to death. Their captors gave them one chance at life. They were set loose in the dungeon via magic portals. The dungeon belonged to a powerful wizard. They were told that only one of them was allowed to make it out alive, but that person would not only earn his freedom, he would also be allowed to keep whatever he recovered in the dungeon. Of course the dungeon was stocked full of nasty monsters and even nastier traps. I had decided that whichever character made it to the end of the dungeon would be faced by the wizard and a small army of minions. The wizard would demand whatever valuables the character had recovered. If he cooperated, he would be allowed to live and leave naked. Yeah, I was not a nice DM, and I'm not sure why anyone ever wanted to play with me, young bastard that I was.

The five of them were not alone. I set loose ten NPC's with them, each of which had the same deal as they. All of the fifteen were set loose at different points in the dungeon. As I remember it, one of them was quickly attacked by a group of three NPC's that had decided to join forces. Witnessing this, the remaining four decided to gang together and started NPC hunting. This lasted for a bit, until one of them, a thief, back stabbed a fellow player character.

At that point, all hell broke loose. In the end, none of them survived as I cheated. One of the NPCs was actually a devil polymorphed into the form of a human. When he was encountered, well, it didn't end well for the remaining two players that met up with him.

In retrospect, it was a juvenile concept, but sometimes juvenile is good, dirty fun.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Game of Thrones, Yearning for Birthright

About a week ago, my wife and I power watched season one of A Game of Thrones on Blue Ray. My animosity towards George R.R. Martin aside, I enjoyed the season and found it refreshingly tighter then the books.

However, this is not a review. AGoT has been reviewed to death. Watching the series made me yearn to once again play Birthright.

For those not familiar, Birthright was a setting published by TSR in 1995. In the setting, characters were rulers of domains (this was possible even at 1st level!). There was much political backstabbing (at least in my campaigns) and of course war always loomed.

I really got into Birthright at the time. It is the only setting published by TSR that I ever used in my campaigns and I used it for several years. One of the attractions for me was that the characters each had a bloodline that was derived from a dead god. There was a war of the gods many years ago in which all the old gods perished and new gods rose in their place. However, not all of the old gods power was transferred to the new. A fraction of it (a lot in godhood terms) was transferred to their followers. Some followers had only trace bloodlines, while others had great bloodlines. It was possible to increase ones bloodline by killing another blooded character, giving the game a very Highlander appeal.

The game was originally designed for 2nd edition AD&D, and this was the system I usually ran it with; however, I once played a GURPS (3rd ed.) version of the game, and a dedicated online fan base put out a 3rd edition D&D version that I used for a year or so as well.

I have, to the best of my knowledge, every expansion ever published for the setting. I haven't had an urge to play it in years. For the past ten years, my game of choice has been Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and when I do play D&D, it is an old-school version. I've played with both the BECMI Cyclopedia rules and Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game.

But damn! Watching Game sure makes me want to pull the Birthright material out of storage and maybe convert it to Basic Fantasy Roleplay, or for kicks, use it with 2nd ed. AD&D (although my 2nd edition games were mostly 1st edition games with a few good ideas from 2nd ed. thrown in for flavor).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dungeons & Dragons, Edition Too Much

I haven't read much about the looming newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. I stuck with the game up through 3rd, but decided to get off the bus with the announcement of 3.5. My reason? Too many editions.

Consider, the game was created in 1974. That game, now commonly referred to as Original Dungeons & Dragons (OD&D), did go under revision with the publication of the J. Eric Holmes edition in 1977. That same edition did get minor revisions (but not new editions) with the subsequent Tom Moldvay 1981 edition and the Frank Mentzer 1983 edition.

The largest edition change came with the publication of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, with the publication of the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and the Monster Manual between the years of 1977 and 1979.

So as can be seen, there was change early in the hobby. Within five years of original conception, the game underwent three revisions and one edition change.

However, the next edition change was not seen until 1989, with the publication of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons second edition. AD&D1, was given 10 years shelf life before being canned. AD&D2 reigned for eleven years before D&D3 was published in 2000.

But since then, new editions crop up too often. 3rd edition was quickly canned and replaced with 3.5 in 2003. That was my warning sign that it was time to get off the bus.

And I am glad I did. Five years after asking its players to ditch the rule books they had bought only a three short years earlier, Wizards of the Coast published 4th edition in 2008. Now in 2012, they are play testing their latest edition (which their marketing guys are smartly calling D&D Next).

A new edition every approximate five years? No thank you sir. That is Edition Too Much. I will stay off the bus.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bygone Golden Days of Gaming

I miss running a regular game. I've enjoyed the board gaming I've done lately, and if I never am able to run a regular game again, I would be okay as long as I could at least occasionally play a good geeky fun board game such as Arkham Horror, any of the Catan games, the occasional game of Zombies! and have the ability to try out new games every now and then.

However, I will always have the longing to run a good, long roleplaying game.

The problem is, whenever I start one and get into it, and when I am into it, I am REALLY into it (I have taken sick time from work before, just because I had a good idea I wanted to prepare for that night's game). The problem is my career is demanding, and by demanding I mean I travel lots.

I have looked into other options, Google+, Fantasy Grounds, Skype and such, and those are options, but the problem is I travel in Alaska, and take it from me, the Internet coverage in AK is spotty at best.

The same thing always happens, I get a good game going and going strong for a month, maybe two, playing once a week. Then, I have to travel. First, my group and I will miss one session, which becomes three, then a month, then several months. Whenever I try going back to that game that was so strong when I left it, it just isn't on fire in my head anymore. I think the same is true for my players.

There is no point or moral to this post, and I've made other posts like it before. Sometimes, I just need to vent. I miss my golden days of gaming.

Disney's "John Carter" Not this Generation's "Star Wars" -- Review

My family and I finally had the chance to see Disney's John Carter this past weekend. While I enjoyed it, it was not the Edgar Rice Burrough's tale that I love. Several seemingly small changes were made; however, these "seemingly small changes" added up to a story that was not A Princess of Mars, nor the characters and world created by ERB.


Please stop reading here, if you do not wish to know some spoilers.

After viewing the theatrical trailers released prior to the movie hitting theaters, I was apprehensive walking into my favorite mega-theater-complex. There was a scene in one of the trailers in which it is mentioned that if John Carter doesn't stop the threat that is menacing Barsoom, that Earth will be next...Huh?, I thought. I don't remember any universe shaking threat from the first three books that were a potential threat to the universe, so what is this about?

However, what really raised my hackles was the phrase spoken during a television commercial for the film: THIS GENERATIONS STAR WARS! I have heard this moniker attached to too many science fiction films over the years, and they always fail to deliver. There will never be a "this generations Star Wars", not even the three prequels made by George Lucas himself measured up as "this generation's Star Wars". Please Hollywood, stop making promises you can not deliver upon. I tried to stay objective and to quiet the nagging of this statement in the back of my mind while viewing the film. I thought to myself, "don't let a bogus Hollywood marketing scheme cloud your vision". I feel that I succeeded.

As I mentioned earlier, there were several small changes made to ERB's original story for the film that I did not approve of; understand, that I am not THAT GUY. You know THAT GUY. THAT GUY insists upon absolute purity to his favorite story whenever it is switched from one media to another. THAT GUY is still pissed that there was no Tom Bombadil in The Lord of the Rings movies. I recognize that when one of my favorite stories is made into a movie or adapted to comic book format, or any other type of media other than its original conception, it will be based upon my favorite story, and most likely not a strictly shackled reformatting for another media medium. Some things just don't translate well from the written page to the large screen, it is a fact. Also, some stories are so lavishly long, that cuts must be made; for instance, the cutting of Tom Bombadil from the LotR does not change the over reaching story line.

These are not the types of changes that I am here after complaining about. So, at the risk of being THAT GUY, here we go...

First up, the character of John Carter, as presented in the movie versus the character presented by ERB is not the same. The John Carter created by ERB is brave, chivalrous, decisive, honest to a fault and craves combat. Yes, he is written like some sort of impossible man, but this is what makes him special. He is everything most boyhood fantasies dream about one day becoming and that was the point. ERB's Carter is even seemingly ageless! Burroughs goes out of his way to make him more than human; however, Hollywood does everything possible to make Carter more human.

The Captain Carter of the movie is a survivor of the Civil War, he fought for the South, and while he survived, his wife and daughter did not...wait?...what?...yes, I said "wife and daughter", you know, the wife and daughter that ERB never made mention of, but Hollywood felt compelled to add to make the character of John Carter more sympathetic and human. Furthermore, the John Carter of the movie, re-imagined as a war ravaged loner haunted by the death of his loved ones, wishes to be left alone so he can find the fabled lost gold of the Spider Caves (another slight alteration made for the film). He seeks the gold of the spider caves not out of a sense of adventure (as ERB's John Carter would have), but because he wants enough gold to live his life out in comfortable solitude (which, I must admit, is a sentiment ERB's John Carter might share). Both ERB's Carter and the Carter of the movie are good in a fight, but ERB's Carter is amazingly good in a fight and seeks the thrill of combat, while the Carter of the movie is good in a fight, not amazing, the Dejah Thoris of the movie is seemingly his equal, and I got the sense that while he wouldn't back down from a fight, he does not crave combat in the same way Burrough's Carter does; however, I must make mention of one very Burroughs like scene in which Carter fights off wave after wave of enemies.

The other slight alteration made for the film, I all ready alluded to. In the film, the Zodangans have been given the 9th Ray, which makes them a threat to all of Barsoom. The 9th ray was given to them by the Therns, which for the movie have been given magical like powers and it is assumed that they have travelled across vast distances from world to world, shaping those worlds to their liking while hiding in the background. This change, I believe, was made to give the film an epic feel. Burrough's A Princess of Mars was not epic. The story is more episodic and there is no arch villain of the book. Later, in the subsequent novels The Gods of Mars and Warlord of Mars, there are presented arch villains in the guise of the Therns and their false goddess Issus. I can understand why it was believed that having an overall bad guy would appeal to the modern movie goer, so this sin, I forgive.

There were several other changes, but overall I did enjoy the film. No it is not this generation's Star Wars and it was not a faithful adaption of A Princess of Mars, but it never promised to be the later; however, it was an enjoyable film. I will purchase it on Blue-Ray when available, and I am willing to see any sequels.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Class as Caste in Classic Dungeons and Dragons

I've read this series of posts by Greywulf before on why he feels the Dungeons and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia is the most awesome version of the game ever published (this being an opinion I share); however, ever since re-reading them yesterday, I have been putting much thought into his concept of "Class as Caste" and how it might be used to add flavor to a campaign setting.

If you haven't read Greywulf's posts, please do so. But for my purposes, I will quote what has been causing my gaming gears to turn lately (the italics for emphasis are mine own):

In the Rules Cyclopedia we have Fighter, Thief, Magic-User and Cleric – all of whom are Human – and the demihuman “classes” of Elf, Dwarf and Halfling. In our campaigns we say that humans undergo a Casting ceremony while still a child (at birth or later, depending on religion and culture), and their path in life is revealed. The D&D human Classes are the character’s Caste, and wars have been fought over a child being Casted a Thief to a long line of noble Fighters. The other races have no such ceremony – an Elf is just an Elf – and are bemused by human’s pre-occupation with pidgeonholing each other. In many cultures, ordinary folks can’t afford the Casting ceremony (unless a kindly Cleric offers it for free), and end up as castless Commoners, shopkeepers, etc.

For me, the class as caste concept is an intriguing basis for a campaign. What kind of world is it that has "Thief" as a viable social caste? I think, if I were to adopt something along these lines into one of my games, there would be guilds associated with each caste that a character could join, and probably should unless he wants to be an outsider in his own caste.

In most cases, this makes a lot of sense. Many campaigns have Thieves Guilds, and having a Wizards Guild and a Warriors Guild is not uncommon. In some cases, the guilds would not be called or considered as such. For instance, Clerics would belong to a Cult, Temple or Church and Wizards might belong to Universities or Colleges with each college of magic having its own branch. Again, this is nothing new to most gamers. I can think of several game worlds off the top of my head that have organizations such as these in place for players to have their characters join.

In the case of some zero-level NPC's, they may not belong to a guild and are in fact caste-less. Farmers and barmaids for instance might not have a caste; however, I believe in a society that places so much emphasis upon a caste system, there would be guilds set up for even the zero-level NPCs. I can envision several guilds being in place for farmers, slavers, merchants, prostitutes and town watchmen, just to name a few. Aristocrats would belong to a line of families, that again like Clerics and Wizards "guilds" may in fact not be called as such, but would work much the same way.

In such a caste driven society, the importance of belonging to something is paramount to identity. For example: "I am Graven of the Warriors Guild", "I am Celina of the Comforters Guild" (Comforter being a polite term for prostitute), "I am Benjamin of the Agriculture Guild", etc. etc.. A further identifier could be what level the character is.

Once upon a time, when I was a pre-teen gamer, my group got into a heated argument about levels. Some of us believed that what level a character is was meant to be background noise; in other words, a simple rule mechanic illustrating how powerful any given person is. Others of us believed, and I was in this camp, that since name levels were provided for each level (and here I am referring to first edition AD&D) that each character was aware of what level he is. For clarity, I will post those levels from the AD&D first edition Player's Handbook for those that don't know what I am referring to (and I include only the four "basic" human classes offered in Classic D&D):

1: Acolyte
2: Adept
3: Priest
4: Curate
5: Perfect
6: Canon
7: Lama
8: Patriarch
9: High Priest
10: High Priest (10th level)
11: High Priest (11th level)

1: Veteran
2: Warrior
3: Swordsman
4: Hero
5: Swashbuckler
6: Myrmidon
7: Champion
8: Superhero
9: Lord
10: Lord (10th Level)
11: Lord (11th Level)

1: Prestidigitator
2: Evoker
3: Conjurer
4: Theurgist
5: Thaumaturgist
6: Magicician
7: Enchanter
8: Warlock
9: Sorcerer
10: Necromancer
11: Wizard
12: Wizard (12th level)
13: Wizard (13th level)
14: Wizard (14th level)
15: Wizard (15th level)
16: Wizard (16th level)
17: Wizard (17th level)
18: Wizard (18th level or Arch-Mage)

1: Rogue
2: Footpad
3: Cutpurse
4: Robber
5: Burglar
6: Filcher
7: Sharper
8: Magsman
9: Thief
10: Master Thief
11: Master Thief (11th level)
12: Master Thief (12th level)

I like this concept coupled with Class as Caste. Thus now one might introduce himself as "I am The Footpad Collin of the Thieves Guild" or "I am Magrill, Hero of the Warriors Guild". From these two examples, we know that Collin is a second level thief and that Magrill is a fourth level fighter, or at least that is what they claim to be. There would be no stopping someone from lying about their caste, but I think such a crime would be a serious one in a society that takes caste so seriously; however, buying one's way higher into a guild would most likely be an acceptable practice. Therefore, if Magrill has not paid his dues, while he may mechanically be fourth level, as far as the Guild is concerned, he might still be considered "Magrill, Veteran of the Warriors Guild"; thus, the dungeon master has a good way of eating up some of that extra gold that his players have lying around. If a player wants to be able to use his new name level, he must pay to do so. 100 gold pieces per level sounds reasonable. Of course, a social power hungry player that wants to quickly climb the social ladder could easily buy a name higher then that which he should actually be.

The system must be played with, in my mind "The Arch-Bishop Draven of the Cult of Entropy" sounds better then "Draven, Arch-Bishop of the Cult of Entropy", but others may disagree. Also, it is a stretch to say that every 10th level magic-user is a Necromancer, but what if it's not? Meaning, what if to advance through each level, a magic-user must concentrate his studies on a different branch of magic for each level? Thus every 10th level magic-user is a necromancer. That is a thought that may be worth plumbing itself for ideas.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Lin Carter: Explorations in Fantasy Part 2," Tolkien: A Look Behind the 'Lord of the Rings"

I began this series on Lin Carter a long time back and am now just getting back to it. The reason for the long delay is I just wasn't sure what I was trying to prove. I believe that Lin Carter, while looked down upon too often by the establishment and fans of Fantasy and Sword and Sorcery, he is not given enough credit for the positive influence he has had upon the genre. Lin Carter was one of the first critical writers to take fantasy and its related genres seriously and to attempt to make the public at large view it as Literature (capital L intended). So after a long delay, here is my second love letter to the memory of Lin Carter.

This post is more of a retrospective then a review. I don't feel it is fare to review this work, as Carter was attempting to pioneer the idea that the Fantasy genre is not to be viewed as childish and non-academic. Mr. Carter was well read in the field and beyond. He shows it here. I would like you as the reader to keep in mind that when Carter was writing this, The Lord of the Rings (hereafter LotR) was more of a cult favorite and was not universally as well known as such pop-culture icons such as Batman or Superman. It isn't too far fetched to suggest that Carter, with the publication of this book helped bring pop-culture status to Tolkien's work.

First published in paper back form in March 1969 by Ballantine Books. There were numerous printings of this book, the latest in 2003. To the best of my knowledge, it is currently out of print. The edition I own is a fourteenth printing dated 1978.

Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings, is an insightful guide to the man who created Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf and the gang. The first chapter, "The Lives and Times of Professor Tolkien" is a short biography, and is interesting, but as to information gained from reading it, if you've read any works about Tolkien before, you won't learn anything further. The same can be said of Chapter 2 which discusses Tolkien's involvement with the Inklings. This is tried and true Tolkienism that many an armchair Tolkien scholar has read numerous times before. What makes it different and special, is Carter is perhaps one of the first few to take The Lord of the Rings seriously, not as an entertainment, but as a serious work of Literature worthy of study.

Chapter 3 stands out with interest. Titled "Tolkien Today", it is a look at the good professor's other works such as his translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The bulk of the chapter is Carter's discussion of "Tolkien's upcoming new LotR book The Silmarillion". I found it interesting, for it was written while Tolkien was still writing the book. As any fan of Tolkien knows, that work was published posthumously in 1977 by his son Christopher Tolkien. When Carter wrote this chapter, the professor's fan base was still slathering at the mouth in anticipation of The Silmarillion being published. There was much excitement for no one truly knew what the book would be about, and many were hoping for a sequel to LotR. Here, Carter discusses what he believes the book will be about. Being that I was very young when LotR first saw print and was thus a Johnny-Come-Lately, it made for a nice bit of history for me. Later editions of Carter's book included an editor's note dated January 1975 noting the death of J.R.R. Tolkien in 1973 and the fact that he was still in the midst of completing The Silmarillion at the time of his death.

Chapters 4 through 7 are nothing more then synopsis of The Hobbit and all three books of The Lord of the Rings. For anyone who is familiar with the books, there is nothing gained from the reading of these four chapters.

The interesting stuff begins in Chapter 8 where Carter discusses if LotR can fairly be read as satire, allegory or something else. Chapter 9 explores Tolkien's famous Andrew Lang lecture Tree and Leaf and how Tolkien's admiration of the fairy story factored into his writing. Carter uses this chapter as well to further define the genre of fantasy and to ponder what kind of fantasy LotR is (from the book):

Does it belong to the whimsy of James Stephen's The Crock of Gold or to the supernatural horror of H.P. Lovecraft's Weird Shadow Over Innsmouth? To the swashbuckling heroics of Robert E. Howard's "Conan" stories or the ironic symbolism of James Branch Cabell's Jurgen? To the high adventure of H. Rider Haggard's She or to the subtle legendry of Lord Dunsany's Idle Days on the Yann?...

Many more examples are given with no conclusion yet drawn.

Chapter 10 explores Tolkien's connection to the Epic. In true Carter fashion, he begins with a short history of the Epic and what an Epic entails. In this chapter, the author calls upon Homer and Gilgamesh, plus a few other works, show casing his wide range of literature read. Also discussed is if the epic can be classified as fantasy. This chapter, along with the following chapters of the book serve as a preview of sorts of his next book Imaginary Worlds.

The next chapter serves as a continuation of the history of the Epic. Carter begins with a discussion of the Argonautica then traces the art to the formation of the French epics "chansons de geste ("songs of deeds") which includes Song of Roland. The songs of deeds detail the heroics of Charlemagne. Carter spends a good deal of time examining Roland. He ends the chapter with an introduction to the topic of Chapter 12, the Romances of the late Middle Age.

Here Carter discusses how Romances made the addition of magicians and magic in general to the literature that is building towards Tolkien's work. He turns to a discussion of Amadis of Gaul, and his admiration for it. As he explains, the popularity of Amadis sprung a wealth of new romances, mostly imitators. Most of those works which followed the Amadis became so convoluted with the idea of topping the last, that they became dreary and nearly unintelligible. Carter is not afraid to tell his reader when he thinks something is crap; for instance, the end of this chapter includes his opinion of Edmund Spenser, author of The Fairie Queen. His opinion of Spenser is not good, as he attributes to him the death blow (of the literature of romance). More opinion of Spenser and The Fairie Queen is given in Carter's Imaginary Worlds.

Chapter 13 shows Carter's tastes in literature that can, without a doubt, be confined to the genre of Fantasy. He writes mostly of three men whom he gives credit to for creating fantasy. First up is William Morris, who Carter labels The Reformer; next is Lord Dunsany, The Aristocrat; last of his "big three" is Eric Rucker Eddison who Carter calls The Romancer. The major works of all three are discussed. In this chapter Carter also pays homage to: L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt. H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance and Mervyn Peak. He gives some attention to Peak's "Gormenghast trilogy".

In chapter 14, Carter puts forth what he considers to be the primary sources for Tolkien's ring trilogy. He gives much time to the Elder Edda and includes a list of names from the Edda. Amongst those names are many of the dwarven names used by Tolkien. Interestingly enough, the list includes a dwarf named Gandalf. Carter also looks in depth at the Siegfried Legend. Sometimes remembered as the legend of the dragon-slayer, the Siegfried tales includes magical rings amongst other similarities. His discussion of this ends with an examination of Richard Wagner's operas and their likeness to Tolkien's writings.

Chapter 15 "On the Naming of Names", explores the probable sources for many of Professor Tolkien's character names. Carter begins the chapter with a quick anecdote that fans of H.P. Lovecraft would find interesting. Carter relates a tongue-cheek-joke of Lovecraft naming one of his characters "the Comte d'Erlette", which he proposes is a play on the name August Derleth (this is based on the similarity of the sound of d'Erlette and Derleth, plus August Derleth was a correspondent of Lovecraft and Lovecraft knew that Derleth was descended from French nobility, but as an American citizen, Derleth could not retain a title of nobility). (On a side note, it is anecdotes such as this that add strength to Lin Carter's explorations). The meat of the chapter involves Carter tracing character names in Tolkien's LotR to their respective sources: mostly by "immersion in Welsh, Norse, Gaelic, Scandinavian and Germanic folklore" (the quote is from an article called "The Fantastic World of Professor Tolkien" by Michael Straight, originally published in The New Republic, January 16, 1956). Carter shows that often there is more then one source for each name. For instance, the name Gandalf was first found in the Edda's dwarf catalogue; however, a character named Gandalf also plays a part in the fourteenth century Norse saga Thattr Nornagest Saga; we see the name Gandalf also appearing in the William Morris' novel The Well at the World's End. From here, Carter leads into the final chapter of the book.

Chapter 15, Some People, Places and Things explores the setting of Tolkien's fantasy work. Carter begins with "Places" and establishes the history of a fantasy world in the the Morris-Dunsany-Eddison-Tolkien tradition. By this is meant that the idea of a fantasy world, as understood by the modern reader, began with William Morris, and was used (and perhaps built upon and or expanded) by Lord Dunsany, E.R. Eddison and then J.R.R. Tolkien in that order. He also gives another what I call a Lin Carter PR moment when in a foot note he expands upon the term Sword & Sorcery, in which he is speaking of the similarities between epic fantasy worlds and those of the common sword and sorcery world. Here he explains that Robert E. Howard is the father of the sword and sorcery genre, but it was later expanded upon by such authors as Henry Kuttner (with his Elak Stories), L. Sprague de Camp (who at the time Carter was writing this book shared a strong friendship with him), Fritz Lieber (who actually coined the term Sword & Sorcery) and oh-yeah, Lin Carter (for his Thongor stories). The "People" section of this chapter is the strongest. Here Carter points out the character tropes used for Tolkien's characters. He suggests that Aragon is the perfect Patrician Hero and that Frodo is perhaps in the words of William Shakespeare "one who has greatness thrust upon them". He ends the chapter with an interesting tracing of the origins of "...the White Tree which once bloomed in Minas Arnor in the great days of Gondor" and its relation to the tree mythology laid out in volume III of Teutonic Mythology by Viktor Rydberg.

Lin Carter ends the book with a post-script titled, After Tolkien, which is a laundry list of works that are influenced by Tolkien. For instance, Carol Kendall's Gammage Cup, published in 1959, tells a story of a hobbit like race of little people. He also compares Alan Garner's novels The Weirdstone of Brisingamen (1960), The Moon of Gomrath (1963) and Elidor (1965) all seem influenced by LotR. He ends with stating that the finest books to follow the Tolkien tradition to date are the works of Llyod Alexander; The Book of Three (1964), The Black Cauldron (1965), The Castle of Llyr (1966), Taran Wanderer (1967) and The High King (1968).

He includes two appendix, "A Checklist of Critical Literature on The Lord of the Rings" and "A Selected Bibliography". Both are outdated to the modern reader, but are not without merit.

I end this retrospective with Lin Carter's first sentence to the first paragraph of his "Postscript: After Tolkien"

If L. Sprague de Camp is correct in his opinion that Lord Dunsany was the most influential fantasy writer of the first half of this century, then I feel certain that J.R.R. Tolkien will prove the greatest influence over writers in the last half.

In my humble opinion, I would say Lin Carter was unarguably correct in his assumption. To deny the fingerprint left by J.R.R. Tolkien upon the Fantasy Genre, popular culture and Literature in general would be a hard argument to make.

Part three of this series will look at Lin Carter's magnum opus, Imaginary Worlds: The Art of Fantasy.