Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Jack Vance is the Soul of AD&D

From Gary Gygax’s introduction to The Dying Earth rpg:

Aside from ideas and specific things, the very manner in which Jack Vance portrays a fantasy environment, the interaction of characters with that environment, and with each other, is so captivating that wherever I could manage it, I attempted to include the “feel” he brings to his fantasy tales in the AD&D game. My feeble ability likely managed to convey but little of this, but in all I do believe that a not a little of what fans consider to be the “soul” of the game stems from that attempt. Of course there were, as noted, a number of other authors who had considerable influence on what I wrote, so let it suffice to conclude that in all a considerable debt of gratitude is owned to Mr. Vance, one that I am always delighted to repay whenever the opportunity arises. It should go without saying that whenever I see a new title of his, I buy it and read it with avid pleasure.

And ah, note there the reference to other Appendix N authors as having “considerable influence” on the game as well. Also, Gygax appeared as a character in one of Vance’s books. Interesting!

And check this out:

Of the other portions of the A/D&D game stemming from the writing of Jack Vance, the next most important one is the thief-class character. Using a blend of “Cugel the Clever” and Roger Zelazny’s “Shadowjack” for a benchmark, this archetype character class became what it was in original AD&D.

If you have been frustrated by the thief class and how it plays in early editions of D&D, you may want to take a look at these two characters yourself!

Finally… Neal Durando notes here that Vance’s Dying Earth setting is antithetical to the sort of setting splat books that became synonymous with rpgs in the eighties:

There is a truly great advantage offered to the Game Master when devising a campaign set on the Dying Earth. It is not highly detailed. There is no strict timeline laid down. All that has happened before is not “recorded”, nor is there an accurate gazetteer of for the world. What magic operates? Nobody can say or guess, because in the long eons of the Dying Earth’s history, likely every form possible was discovered, used, and then forgotten…almost. That means that all that’s necessary is to have the game in hand, the books that Jack Vance wrote about the world, to create a really compelling campaign environment. Using the creative base of the author, the GM’s own imagination cannot fail but to rise to the occasion.

You know, that’s strange.

It’s almost as if a familiarity with the books of Appendix N can have a drastic impact on how you even conceive of the game– and how you go about setting up your campaign or how you design supplements for it as well.

Somebody ought to look into this!

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