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"The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons & Dragons" Topic

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Arjuna30 Apr 2021 5:07 a.m. PST

Jon Peterson and Peter Bebergal in conversation at TheReader MITPress about the roots of D&D in the shared narratives of H.P.Lovecraft and his buddies Robert E.Howard and Clark Ashton Smith.

So, did Conan ever met Cthulhu on the Planet of the Dead in someones D&D session?

My mind fades, beholding this…

Abyss Triumphant

"The force of suns had waned beyond recall.
Chaos was re-established over all,
Where lifeless atoms through forgetful deeps
Fled unrelated, cold, immusical.

Above the tumult heaven alone endured;
Long since the bursting walls of hell had poured
Demon and damned to peace erstwhile denied,
Within the Abyss God's might had not immured.

(He could but thwart it with creative mace. . . .)
And now it rose about the heavenly Base,
Mordant at pillars rotten through and through
Of Matter's last, most firm abiding-place.

Bastion and minaret began to nod,
Till all the pile, unmindful of His rod,
Dissolved in thunder, and the void Abyss
Caught like a quicksand at the feet of God !"
Clark Ashton Smith

rmaker30 Apr 2021 12:40 p.m. PST

I don't know Peter Bebergal, but Jon Peterson is full of it.

CeruLucifus01 May 2021 12:39 p.m. PST

I skimmed the interview link but didn't read closely, and won't be buying the book it's about.

As to the question, obviously these 3 authors were in mind by Gygax et al when they developed D&D. But just in terms of story content, I see Lovecraft inspiring monsters and Smith inspiring color, encounters, traps, whereas Howard inspired characters.

It seems odd to single out these 3 authors. Some others are left out that are equally as important influences on D&D as Howard and certainly more than Lovecraft and Smith: Vance, Anderson, Tolkien, Dunsany, Moore to name some.

CeruLucifus01 May 2021 4:56 p.m. PST

Fritz Lieber as well.

USAFpilot01 May 2021 8:21 p.m. PST

When I created my very first D&D character and had to decide what race he would be, human, elf, dwarf, or halfling; I thought this game is right out of Tolkien's Middle-Earth. I know Gygax listed many authors who inspired him in the appendix to the AD&D DMG, and somewhat downplayed Tolkien's influence, but I never truly bought that. To me D&D was mostly based on Tolkien.

rmaker02 May 2021 6:40 p.m. PST

Fritz Lieber was Gygax's favorite. He also liked the Conan stories but didn't think much of the rest of the REH canon. He never said much about Lovecraft or Smith.

Arneson was more influenced by Tolkien, but his primaries were Poul Anderson, Fletcher Pratt, and L. Sprague DeCamp.

Gorgrat16 Jun 2021 5:44 p.m. PST

USAFpilot has it right on. Yes, all of those other authors are important, but Tolkien was preeminent, whether Mr. Gygax wanted to admit it or not.

I was a 17 year old kid when I first got into DnD. I did so because it was the Lord of the Rings game, as did everyone I played with.

That's where its market came from, and that's why the vast majority of the miniatures we played with were Tolkien inspired.

I very much doubt we were outliers.

Gorgrat16 Jun 2021 5:50 p.m. PST

And is Peter Berbegal perhaps a relative of Peter S. BEAGLE? 😉

USAFpilot19 Jun 2021 12:45 p.m. PST

Fritz Lieber was Gygax's favorite. He also liked the Conan stories but didn't think much of the rest of the REH canon.

I can definitely see where Gygax drew many of his ideas from Fritz Leiber. Such as a "thieves guild" and several magic items like ‘dust of appearance'. Although I would add that Leiber's writing style was not great. As for REH, clearly a talented writer. I find most of his works very similar, whether it's Conan or Kane, or Kull; they all pretty much read the same. But Tolkien has to be the granddaddy of them all.

Personal logo 20thmaine Supporting Member of TMP16 Jul 2021 4:42 a.m. PST

I guess there's Conan by implication because Gygax stated he was influenced by Tony Bath's Ancients Rules for Chainmail which led into D&D. Tony Bath's rules were used for his legendary Hyboria campaign, set in the world of REH's Conan.

Der Krieg Geist13 Mar 2022 6:01 a.m. PST

Concerning weather Fritz Lieber's writing style is great or not is a matter of subjective taste. :) I love his stories as much as Jack Vance or Michael Moorcock.
As for my tastes, Jack Vance is my favorite, followed by Lieber, then Moorcock.
I see little of Moorcock's influence on D&D, however.

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