For me, as for most people, Dungeons & Dragons was the first roleplaying game. I started playing around 1977 and I started writing articles and adventures while I was in college. My first article was published in 1982, and my most recent adventure was published in 2010. Along the way I also wrote a D&D novel and worked on an unsuccessful pitch for a Greyhawk MMO game. Here they all are:
Pathfinder Adventure Path #41: The Thousand Fangs Below, Paizo Publishing 2010 – adventure author Buy it here
Pathfinder GameMastery Guide, Paizo Publishing 2010 – contributing author Buy it here
Pathfinder Bestiary 2, Paizo Publishing 2010 – contributing author Buy it here
Moons of Arksyra, Hypernova Games 2005 – co-author/developer Buy it here
Mythic Vistas: Eternal Rome, Green Ronin Publishing 2005 – author Buy it here
Creatures of Freeport, Green Ronin Publishing 2004 – co-author Buy it here
Tales of Freeport, Green Ronin Publishing 2003 – author
Slaine: Teeth of the Moon Sow, Mongoose Publishing 2002 – author Buy it here
AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook, TSR, Inc. 1992 – author Buy it here
The Goblins’ Lair, TSR, Inc. 1992 – author Buy it here
Blood and Honor, Wizards of the Coast 2006 Buy the audio book here
“The Tathlum,” (AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook outtake), personal blog, December 2015 Download free here
“The Ecology of the Wight,” Dragon #348, October 2006 Buy it here
“The Soul Yard,” No Quarter #8, September 2006 Buy it here
“Dead Man’s Quest,” Dungeon #107, February 2004 Buy it here
“The Rapax,” Tales of Freeport web promo, 2003 Download free here
“Lady Mijiko’s Holiday,” Pyramid #14, Jul/Aug 1995 – available free online: click here
“The King Beneath the Hill,” White Wolf Magazine #26, Apr/May 1991 Buy it here
“Race Relations,” GameMaster Publications #4, June 1986
“Nightmare in Green,” White Dwarf #75, Apr 1986
“Defenders of the Faith,” GameMaster Publications #3, March 1986
“Find the Lady,” GameMaster Publications #2, Dec 1985 Download free here
“Tongue Tied,” White Dwarf #70, Nov 1985
“Poison,” White Dwarf #69, Oct 1985
“Magic & Mayhem: Viking!” Imagine #30, Sep 1985
“Pentjak Silat: Indonesian Martial Arts,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985
“Japanese Bujutsu,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985
“Monsters from the Folklore of the Philippines,” Imagine #25, Apr 1985 Download free here
“Eye of Newt and Wing of Bat,” White Dwarf #59-63, Dec 1984-April 1985
“New Flail Types,” Imagine #20, Nov 1984 Download free here
“Magic & Mayhem: Celts,” Imagine #17, Aug 1984 Download free here
“Sethotep,” Imagine #16, Jul 1984 Download free here
“Sobek, God of Marshes and Crocodiles,” Imagine #16, Jul 1984 Download free here
“Drowning Rules,” White Dwarf #51, Apr 1984
“Seeing the Light,” White Dwarf #44, Sep 1983
“The Taking of Siandabhair,” Imagine #5, Aug 1983 Download free here
“Bujutsu,” White Dwarf #43, Aug 1983
“Extracts from the Uruk-Hai Battle Manual,” White Dwarf #38, Mar 1983
“The Tower of Babel,” Pegasus #12, Feb-Mar 1983 Buy it here
“The City in the Swamp,” White Dwarf #37, Feb 1983
“More Necromantic Abilities,” White Dwarf #36, Jan 1983
“Drug Use and Abuse,” White Dwarf #32, Aug 1982
Other Bibliography Posts
My Complete and Utter Warhammer Bibliography (Warhammer, WFRP, HeroQuest, AHQ)
My Complete and Utter Warhammer 40,000 Bibliography (WH40K, Adeptus Titanicus/Epic Scale)
A few weeks ago, I had occasion to scan the last AD&D adventure I wrote before I started work on the game that would become Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. You can find it here.
The adventure was called Find the Lady, and it was published in issue 2 of Paul Cockburn’s AD&D magazine GameMaster Publications, which came out in December 1985, shortly before he joined Games Workshop. Paul started GM Pubs after the closure of Imagine magazine and the rest of TSR UK’s publications department; it was written by various Imagine regulars – and several former TSR UK staffers – and lasted for five issues before Paul took over as editor of White Dwarf. Like Imagine, GM Pubs only bought first rights, which is why I feel comfortable making it available online now.
Rereading it thirty years later, I can see it has many of the qualities that would later become characteristic of WFRP: in fact, it wouldn’t require much work to covert it to any edition of that game, with the action set in Altdorf, Middenheim or Marienburg rather than the Pelinore setting that was born in Imagine and continued in GM Pubs. Three years ago, Coop over at the Fighting Fantasist blog made some very astute observations about Pelinore and the development of WFRP, and Phil Gallagher and I both weighed in with comments.
Like many of the early Enemy Within adventures, Find the Lady is primarily a city investigation. As with much of WFRP, I had too much fun creating colorful NPCs. I had been playing a lot of Bushido in the few years before I wrote it, and had fallen in love with the trickster fox-spirits called kitsune. I had also been running a first-edition Call of Cthulhu campaign which involved a great deal of investigation and NPC interaction and very little combat: after all, taking a D&D approach to Call of Cthulhu combat made for very short adventures! Both of these games were an influence on Find the Lady, and of course Call of Cthulhu would be a significant influence on the Enemy Within adventures.
Looking back, it’s easy to see Find the Lady as an intermediate step between AD&D and WFRP as far as my own work is concerned, but it’s also a reflection of roleplaying in general – especially, I think, British roleplaying – as it stood in the mid-80s. Several London-based fanzines led the “rolegaming” movement, which emphasized character interaction over combat and decried commercial success – including the success of WFRP – as somehow having Betrayed Art. Less vocally, roleplayers across the UK were drawn to Call of Cthulhu for the way it supported options other than combat. AD&D was still in its first edition at that time, and had a notable lack of non-combat skills.
Warhammer, of course, was – and remains – a miniatures combat game, so it is perhaps surprising that its roleplaying spinoff should have taken such a different course. Partly it’s because the WFRP combat system turned out to be so deadly and there was little time to fine-tune it, but in large measure, I think, it was a product of its time: a time when Call of Cthulhu had shown the way, and other tabletop RPGs were looking beyond the dungeon. Find the Lady is another sign of those times, and although it’s not as polished as it might be, I hope you enjoy it.
I’ve worked on a lot of historical fantasy projects over the years: the AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook, GURPS Vikings, GURPS Middle Ages 1, d20 Eternal Rome, Colonial Gothic, and a host of articles for various gaming magazines and web sites. Sometimes a project starts as historical fantasy and extends into contemporary fantasy and conspiracy theory, like my Dark Osprey book on the Knights Templar. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, of course, is set in a fictional Old World that had a lot in common with 15th-century Europe.
I could go on at length about how I came to prefer historical fantasy, starting with Enid Blyton retellings of the tales of King Arthur and Robin Hood, Saturday morning rescreenings of Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts, and summer holidays spent visiting Roman villas and medieval castles across the south of England. But I’ll try not to, because that’s not the point I want to make.
It could be argued that almost all fantasy is historical fantasy. The ratio of history to fantasy varies, of course. Some fantasy settings take only the trappings of medieval Europe: castles, walled towns, and styles of weapons and armor. Others, including a lot of my own work, try to recreate the historical setting more or less faithfully, and layer in the types of fantasy elements that the people of that time and place really believed in: in the case of a Viking setting this includes trolls, draugr, one-eyed wizards who talk in riddles, and ways into the realms of Asgard, Alfheim, Jotunheim, and the rest. This is the style of fantasy I personally prefer, but that’s just me.
My first experience of this kind of fantasy came in about 1980. By then, I had been playing D&D/AD&D for about three years: I had resisted starting a Traveller campaign because I was an archaeology student and a fantasy and folklore fan whereas most of my college gaming group were studying physics and consumed science fiction like termites in a sawmill. Their own AD&D campaigns featured things like gigawatt lasers, time and dimension travel, and one memorable guest appearance by Slippery Jim deGris. In a medieval fantasy setting, I felt I could keep things under control, but if I had run Traveller for that group, there’s no telling what they might have talked me into allowing. Pistols that fire point singularities? The mind reels. Sorry – reminiscing again. Back to the point.
Playing Bushido (shortly after watching the miniseries of James Clavell’s Shogun) gave me a window into another culture, another place and time, and I was enthralled. I started to write my own RPG set in the world of Irish myth and saga with the working title Fiana, but it never got beyond a couple of playtest sessions.
As I continued to study, and read, and play, I came to realize that medieval (or “generic”) fantasy had a far stronger basis in history than simply castles and knights. Tolkien’s Middle-earth was grounded in the world of Anglo-Saxon literature, Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age showed a grasp of inter-war archaeology that surprised me, and the worlds of Michael Moorcock’s fantasy novels were, if not historically-based in the same sense, still a window into the decadent London Scene of the late 60s and early 70s.
The point – and I promise, I do have one – is this: fantasy is most accessible when it gives the new reader, or player, something familiar to hang on to rather than plunging them into a world that is completely original. Original fantasy worlds can be disorienting at first, and while they may have many virtues from a literary standpoint, accessibility is not necessarily one of them. Professor M.A.R. Barker created a dazzlingly original fantasy setting for Empire of the Petal Throne and his world of Tekumel still has loyal fans, but AD&D settings like Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms proved themselves much friendlier to neophytes and enjoyed much greater commercial success. A little later Skyrealms of Jorune presented players with very original and thought-provoking SF races and cultures, but its very originality made it harder to play in: a player would start out knowing far less about the world than his or her character did, and it took a lot of quite determined study to figure the setting out. Skyrealms is rightly regarded as a classic, but comparatively few people have ever played it.
While history makes fantasy more accessible, an injection of fantasy can make history a lot more fun. I came to appreciate history fairly late in life, after more than a decade harboring resentment against the teachers who had made it so deadly dull – for me, at least. Would the Pirates of the Caribbean movies have been so successful if they had eschewed the supernatural and striven to recreate the real story of the Golden Age of Piracy? Would they have been as much fun? While I’ve read some very entertaining history books about Caribbean piracy, I have to say I doubt it.
Compare, for example, the Patrick Bergin Robin Hood movie with Kevin Costner’s Prince of Thieves. They were in production at the same time but took very different approaches. The Bergin film paid scrupulous attention to historical detail: the producers employed a historian who was well versed in the contemporary theories about who and what the Hooded Man might really have been, if he truly did live in Norman England. The result: no Sheriff of Nottingham, few if any of the expected story vignettes (although it has to be said that only the Errol Flynn version really satisfies on that score), and the film comes across as earnest but rather dull. Costner embraced the big-budget historical romp, and for every offended scholar who stayed away many more regular folks came, watched, and enjoyed. Likewise, Clive Owen’s well-intentioned King Arthur movie got bogged down in historical (semi) reality – and as an archaeology grad I have to say it showed an impressive level of research in everything except its treatment of the Picts – but it took away a lot of what makes Arthur Arthur in most people’s minds.
More recently we have seen movies like National Treasure, the seemingly unstoppable Pirates of the Caribbean, and of course the Game of Thrones omni-media juggernaut which owes at least some kind of debt to England’s 15th-century Wars of the Roses (I’m waiting for someone to make a Game of Thrones version of Kingmaker). And then there’s the rise of the contemporary urban fantasy genre in fiction, which uses the most familiar setting of all: not historical fantasy, I admit, but it does support my point about the importance of accessibility in a fantasy setting.
Although the exact proportion of history to fantasy is a matter of personal taste, it seems to me that they really do play well together. Fantasy without history can be confusing, and while I would never say that history is dull – except in school – pure, unadulterated history suffers from an image problem.
I’ve been hearing a lot about crowdfunding over the last couple of years, especially in the cash-poor but idea-rich tabletop roleplaying industry. What I haven’t heard is how successful crowdfunding has been at raising money. As of a couple of days ago, though, it looks like I’m going to be finding out.
Last week I got an email out of the blue from James Raggi of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I hadn’t heard of him or his company before, because I really don’t do much in the world of tabletop roleplaying these days. I’d like to, but I can’t generally afford to work for the kind of rates that the industry pays: I wrote an entry On the Economics of Tabletop RPGs earlier.
I do make exceptions, but they are very rare. One is for Colonial Gothic, because I’ve known Richard Iorio of Rogue Games for years and I think the setting has a lot of potential. Another is for Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, because it has been such a huge part of my gaming career going back to 1986. And I still write occasionally for GURPS, because it allows me to indulge my passion for historical and historical-fantasy roleplaying. Recently I had to turn down a project from a once-big publisher, because they were offering the same rate of pay as they did 20 years ago and I just couldn’t afford to do it.
Anyway, back to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Casting about for reviews and then looking over the PDFs that I received, I found it was quite an interesting game. It’s an AD&D retro-clone, another phenomenon I had heard about but not investigated – but the main thing that interested me was the game’s focus on atmosphere and horror over old-school hackfests. So I’ve agreed to do something – maybe.
Here’s where the crowdfunding comes in. My adventure will be one of the bonus items if another project – a hardcover edition of the core rules – exceeds its funding target. Jim has also signed up Ken Hite, Frank Menzer, and some newer names to provide additional bonus items. You can find the details at Indiegogo – and make a pledge if you like what you see.
This is my first brush with crowdfunding, and I really don’t know what to expect. But I guess that in 44 days, I won’t be able to say that any more.
It’s going to be interesting.