The Fabled Appendix – F. Wesley Schneider (Part 2)
... The Fabled Appendix – F. Wesley Schneider (Part 2) Thursday, July 23, 2009Presented here is the second part of my interview with Pathfinder Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider about the sources of inspiration he would include in Paizo's own Appendix N. In this part, he discusses how Golarion was created to accommodate a wide variety of influences and inspirations, and lists his most recent favorite gothic horror authors! ... David: So how did the influences of mythology affect the...
The Fabled Appendix – F. Wesley Schneider (Part 2)
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Presented here is the second part of my interview with Pathfinder Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider about the sources of inspiration he would include in Paizo's own Appendix N. In this part, he discusses how Golarion was created to accommodate a wide variety of influences and inspirations, and lists his most recent favorite gothic horror authors!
David: So how did the influences of mythology affect the design of Golarion?
Wes: Well, Golarion is meant to be a place where you can have everything. It's not just a place for editors' pet projects—gamers should be able to run whatever type of game they want in the setting. However, we have only shown 1/16 of the entire world of Golarion, and future products will open new doors for influences and inspiration.
D&D for the last 30 years has been a fantastic thief, stealing ideas from mythology, folklore, and pulp fantasy and horror. Golarion is similar in this regard, as you can see many of the same trappings in our own setting. But we also are trying to present things that people haven't seen before, like a land of devil-worshipers where people live in fear but order has been maintained; or a land where religion has been outlawed, despite the very real presence of the gods; or a land where questionable eugenics are being used for the supposed betterment of humanity. The wide variety of styles and influences is obvious enough when you look at the titles of each nation–Numeria, for example, is described as the "Savage Land of Super-Science." The influence of things like Thundarr the Barbarian is very clearly present. Despite any obvious influences, however, Golarion is meant to fuel ideas for stories and campaigns; rather than present a story for you to participate in, the approach we wanted to take with the setting was "here is an interesting locale in which to tell a story."
David: Give me a quick list of some things that have recently inspired your game design.
Wes: Off the top of my head, I've really enjoyed Sheridan Le Fanu's stories. Among other things, he's famous for writing Carmilla, a vampire story that predated and influenced Bram Stoker's Dracula. I've also been reading M. R. James's work; he wrote tons of ghost stories that have quietly influenced hundreds of stories and movies like The Twilight Zone and the recent film Drag Me To Hell. I also recently discovered the artist and author Wayne Barlowe in my research for the Book of the Damned Volume I, who greatly influenced my take on Hell.
James Jacobs and Pierce Watters also introduced me to the old Hammer Horror movies—they have terrible acting and even worse special effects, but the ideas presented in many of these movies are amazing. The Devil Rides Out has been one of my favorites so far: Christopher Lee fights a cult trying to summon the Devil. Awesome!
Thus ends my interview with Wes Schneider, Paizo's resident expert on the intersection of folklore and horror. And this wraps up interviews with Paizo's editorial pit. Thanks a ton to all the designers and to all of you for reading!
... The Fabled Appendix – Sean K Reynolds (Part 2) Friday, July 17, 2009Here follows Part 2 of my interview with Developer Sean K Reynolds, game designer extraordinaire and all-around nice guy, in which he discusses how he differentiates Golarion's deities from the gods of Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, and gives a list of the works that most influenced his game design. ... David: Is it hard to make Golarion's gods different from those of other campaign settings? ... Sean; My...
The Fabled Appendix – Sean K Reynolds (Part 2)
Friday, July 17, 2009
Here follows Part 2 of my interview with Developer Sean K Reynolds, game designer extraordinaire and all-around nice guy, in which he discusses how he differentiates Golarion's deities from the gods of Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, and gives a list of the works that most influenced his game design.
David: Is it hard to make Golarion's gods different from those of other campaign settings?
Sean; My technique is to approach the gods like they're people, with their own motivations and agendas. In fact, many of Golarion's deities were once mortals themselves; and, because the world itself is so old, often I can just ask myself, "What would these deities have been doing this whole time?" I really try to explore each god's niche. In terms of making them different than the gods of Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, the history and cosmology of Golarion naturally differentiate them. A good example of this is Oerth's Pelor and Mayaheine versus Golarion's Aroden and Iomedae; the structure of the relationship between the deities is similar (an older, male deity mentoring a younger, female warrior deity), but a few obvious differences are that Pelor is a benevolent god while Aroden is more neutral, and Mayaheine is a defensive deity whereas Iomedae is an active crusader against evil.
David: Briefly give me a list of some of the most influential works you've encountered.
Sean: As a younger kid, the books that made the most impression on me were Lloyd Alexander's books about Taran the Wanderer, which discuss old magic, learning your place in the world, and the apocalypse; Madeline L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series (which includes super-science and biblical references), Anne McCaffrey's Pern books, and Piers Anthony's Xanth and Incarnations of Immortality series. In my teens I chewed through Edgar Rice Burroughs's Mars books, Norman Winski's The Sword and the Sorcerer, Larry Niven's linked fantasy stories ("The Magic Goes Away," "What Good is a Glass Dagger?", and so on), Fred Saberhagen's Book of Swords series, Robert Asprin's Myth series, some collections put together by Isaac Asimov (Wizards, Witches, and so on), and the Thieves' World books (also edited by Robert Asprin), as well as anything by Stephen King and Clive Barker.
Growing up the in '80s, we also had a lot of cool, weird, and bad inspirational fantasy and SF movies as well: Clash of the Titans, Conan the BarbarianLabyrinth, Hawk the Slayer, The Sword and the Sorcerer, The Dark Crystal, Barbarians, Dragonslayer, Krull, the Rankin-Bass version of The Hobbit, Highlander, Blade Runner, Akira, and Ralph Bashki's animated features (Lord of the Rings, Wizards, and Fire and Ice).
This concludes my interview with Sean K Reynolds. Thanks for reading the Fabled Appendix, Paizonians! I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I've enjoyed interviewing the fine game designers at Paizo!
... The Fabled Appendix – Sean K Reynolds (Part 1) Friday, July 10, 2009Sean K Reynolds: Developer, diehard miniatures painter, and resident gods guy of the Paizo offices. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with both Sean and Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider about the sources of inspiration they would include in Paizo's own Appendix N. Switching things up a bit, this week we've got Part 1 of Sean's interview, with more from Wes next week. As would be expected from a game...
The Fabled Appendix – Sean K Reynolds (Part 1)
Friday, July 10, 2009
Sean K Reynolds: Developer, diehard miniatures painter, and resident "gods guy" of the Paizo offices. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with both Sean and Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider about the sources of inspiration they would include in Paizo's own Appendix N. Switching things up a bit, this week we've got Part 1 of Sean's interview, with more from Wes next week. As would be expected from a game designer who worked at TSR during the era of 2nd edition, Sean's influences stretch back to the earliest roots of the hobby.
David: I understand that you are pretty well known as the go-to guy when it comes to writing about the deities of Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms, and Golarion. What sparked this interest?
Sean: I got into D&D by playing the basic boxed set with my Dad and then later with my cousin. What really got me hooked was when, at the library, I picked up a book of Greek mythology, D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, which talked about the gods, the births and deaths of heroes, and how the gods made the greatest heroes into constellations. Reading this, I realized that these characters—even the gods—had personalities and agendas, just like actual people. Later, I got a similar book about Norse mythology, D'Aulaire's Norse Gods & Giants (now retitled as D'Aulaire's Book of Norse Myths), which was even better than the Greeks' because they all wore heavy armor, the gods themselves fought the crazy monsters, and they even had a prophecy about the end of the world. This is probably how I became the "gods guy" of D&D, because these books laid the foundation for my interest in the apocalypse and the gods.
I remember playing in Monte Cook's Praemal campaign—the precursor to Ptolus—where the characters were the 3rd generation of humans to be on the planet, still dealing with the very real influence of the gods and the forces of creation. We even found gigantic handprints in the walls of a canyon from a battle between the gods. I found the combination of creation and destruction very appealing.
David: You started full-time in the RPG industry with Greyhawk, correct?
Sean:Right. My first Greyhawk sourcebook was about The Scarlet Brotherhood, who had always been very mysterious even from the days when Gary Gygax was doing all the writing for the published setting. My sourcebook was the first time anyone had really talked in depth about their society from their perspective. I worked with Erik on the project. One of the daunting but fun things about it was that there was an entire continent—Hepmonaland—that was entirely unexplored in game books; it was barely visible on the Oerth map and nobody really knew what was going on there. Erik and I were both familiar with really old adventures like The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, so we knew that there were Aztec-like people running around. We pieced together little bits of information and then had to make it our own. That was part of the product design philosophy at the time: we'd publish the basics for your campaign and give you a lot of room to create your own material, fill in the blanks, and make connections between various plot hooks. This was very different from my later work on the Forgotten Realms, because books for that line are more about giving people everything they need to run a campaign without having build up anything on their own.
This concludes Part 1 of my interview with Sean K Reynolds. Tune in next time for his comparison of Golarion's gods with the deities of Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms, and his list of some of the works that most influenced his game design.
The Fabled Appendix – F. Wesley Schneider (Part 1)
... The Fabled Appendix – F. Wesley Schneider (Part 1) Friday, July 3, 2009The Fabled Appendix continues! Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing Pathfinder Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider and Developer Sean K Reynolds about the sources of inspiration they would include in Paizo's very own Appendix N. Both had very different replies, which was fun to see. I'll begin with Wes, whose early experiences with console RPGs and later introduction to horror literature have coalesced to...
The Fabled Appendix – F. Wesley Schneider (Part 1)
Friday, July 3, 2009
The Fabled Appendix continues! Yesterday I had the pleasure of interviewing Pathfinder Managing Editor F. Wesley Schneider and Developer Sean K Reynolds about the sources of inspiration they would include in Paizo's very own Appendix N. Both had very different replies, which was fun to see. I'll begin with Wes, whose early experiences with console RPGs and later introduction to horror literature have coalesced to form a unique style all his own.
Alas, today is my last day as an editorial intern, so these Appendix N blog posts will be the last I write. With any luck, however, future interns will continue where I leave off!
David: I understand that World of Darkness, Ravenloft, and Call of Cthulhu were some of your first loves when it came to roleplaying settings. How much were those influences on your game design today?
Wes: Those games and settings both were and weren't influences. My majors inspirations tend to come more from the things that inspired those worlds than from the games themselves, from authors like Walpole, Lovecraft, Shelly, Stoker, Poe, Le Fanu, and Crane. I really enjoy finding the more obscure early horror writers, people who wrote when horror wasn't even truly considered a genre and their tales were more often regarded as ghost stories or dark romances. I've also always been very interested in mythologies from a wide variety of cultures and time periods. What began as a childhood fascination with Greek myth took the typical evolution into Norse and Egyptian legends, and gradually turned into an interest in folklore in general–especially South and Eastern Europe, Middle Eastern, and East Asian.
Also, having been the young guy at Paizo for a long time, I've always felt that I come from the generation after a number of my coworkers. Talking to Erik and James, it becomes clear that their background is in 1st edition D&D and the literature listed in the Dungeon Master's Guide’s original Appendix N. But I didn’t start playing D&D until mid-2nd edition. Although I have great respect for it and the origins of the game, I never played in Greyhawk, getting most of my early D&D exposure through the Forgotten Realms, Ravenloft, Planescape, and their novels. Even before these, though, probably my earliest introduction to RPGs came with the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late '80s. I remember getting a NES for Christmas and it coming with a coupon for Nintendo Power magazine, and if I used the coupon I could also get the game Dragon Warrior for free. Of course, Dragon Warrior led to Final Fantasy, which led to Shadow Gate and the D&D “Gold Box” games, and so on and so on to this day. So, for as long as I've been a D&D gamer, I've been a computer and video game player.
This concludes Part 1 of my interview with Wes Schneider. Stay tuned for Part 2, in which he discusses how Golarion is like a melting pot of ideas and lists his favorite, most recent sources of gothic horror!
The Fabled Appendix – James L. Sutter (Part 2) Tuesday, May 19, 2009Here follows Part 2 of my interview with Editor James L. Sutter, in which he discusses his influences for Golarion's solar system, monster ecologies, and the island nation of Hermea. ... James: For Golarion's solar system, I wanted to include elements of real science, because there are so many phenomena in different scientific fields, such as astronomy, that are already so bizarre as to seem magical. Erik and his love...
The Fabled Appendix – James L. Sutter (Part 2)
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Here follows Part 2 of my interview with Editor James L. Sutter, in which he discusses his influences for Golarion's solar system, monster ecologies, and the island nation of Hermea.
James: For Golarion's solar system, I wanted to include elements of real science, because there are so many phenomena in different scientific fields, such as astronomy, that are already so bizarre as to seem magical. Erik and his love of the pulps made it a given that we'd include classic versions of the Red and Green Planets as homages to sword & planet fantasy, but for the rest of the solar system I was given more or less free reign to introduce more science fiction elements. My goal was to create a wide enough variety of worlds that you could have wildly differing SF-feeling settings without ever leaving Golarion's system. Some of them were inspired primarily by setting concepts (Liches in space suits? Try Eox. Lovecraft-esque planet of mystery? Aucturn, baby!), but others came straight out of Astronomy 101—what kind of society would evolve on a planet that's tidally locked (meaning one side always faces the sun), or one that's tidally heated? What about a planet with an eccentric orbit—could an ecology or society grow up around seasons that last not months, but years? For me, the conditions that create a crazy setting are often as interesting as the setting itself.
Similarly, when writing monster ecologies, I like to figure out how a monster could have evolved into its ecological niche in a realistic fashion. The explanation that "this monster was created by a wizard's experiment gone wrong" is fine for classics like the bulette, but it's been done way too often. When writing the entries for lizardfolk in Classic Monsters Revisited and the rust monster in Dungeon Denizens Revisited, for instance, I tried to make their ecologies as plausible as possible. There are good reasons why rust monsters don't actually exist, of course, and I'm not averse to a little magic here and there, but it's easy to let magic be a crutch if you're not careful. (I should also stress that I'm not a scientist, by any means—I just know a lot of them, and enjoy listening to them explain how my proposed ecologies butcher biological and physical laws.)
Another big influence for me is the concept of moral ambiguity—to me, the best villains are always the ones who passionately believe they're doing the right thing. The island nation of Hermea, for instance, was born out of my desire to see how a fantasy society would tackle the dicey question of eugenics. One of my roommates is a geneticist, and eugenics is a real topic of concern for him. It seems like every week or so we end up in complicated debates and thought experiments with friends about the morality and wisdom of actively seeking to "improve" humanity through science. It's an extremely touchy subject, because the word "eugenics" reminds a lot of people of the atrocities of the Holocaust, in which the concept was thinly draped over hatred and genocide. Yet at its base definition, eugenics is happening every day in commonplace medical practices like amniocentesis. So where are the lines drawn?
The question of whether or not eugenics can be used for the greater good became the core concept behind Hermea, and led to some heated inter-office debates and jokes (at some point in the campaign setting outline, someone penciled it in as "Codename: Dragon Hitler"). But in the end, the idea saw light: in Hermea, a nominally good gold dragon, in all of its wisdom, is trying to guide humanity to perfection by selectively breeding the best and brightest volunteers for their desirable traits. Whether or not this goes against his alignment is up to each individual GM to decide. Personally, I believe that eugenics happens every day, as we continue to wipe out diseases and detect genetic disorders early on. Evolution and natural selection didn't stop with the rise of civilization; the only difference is that we're now beginning to put ourselves in the driver's seat. It's an exciting time to be a human.
All in all, my inspiration comes from a little bit of fantasy, a lot of science fiction, and a lot of hard science.
Thanks for reading, Paizonians! Stay tuned for more of Paizo's Appendix N in the near future!
... The Fabled Appendix – James L. Sutter (Part 1) Monday, May 18, 2009Paizo's Appendix N returns! Now that the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook is out the door, things at the Paizo office have become just a little bit less hectic. Seizing the lull in the workload, Editor James L. Sutter generously took the time Friday morning to speak with me about his most important sources of inspiration. Just as James Jacobs's love of horror in literature and film differed greatly from Erik Mona's...
The Fabled Appendix – James L. Sutter (Part 1)
Monday, May 18, 2009
Paizo's Appendix N returns! Now that the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook is out the door, things at the Paizo office have become just a little bit less hectic. Seizing the lull in the workload, Editor James L. Sutter generously took the time Friday morning to speak with me about his most important sources of inspiration. Just as James Jacobs's love of horror in literature and film differed greatly from Erik Mona's unquenchable thirst for pulp novels, Mr. Sutter's influences are unique within the office. Read on to find out the fantasy authors that most influenced James's game design, and learn why he enjoys mixing the peanut butter of science fiction with the chocolate of fantasy.
David: As the creator of Kaer-Maga, the notorious den of thieves, and the person most responsible for envisioning Golarion's solar system, it is clear that your influences are pretty diverse. What are your biggest sources of inspiration when creating the world of Pathfinder?
James: As far as fantasy authors go, I'd have to say that my biggest influences are China Miéville, Joel Rosenberg, and Richard Knaak. I really enjoyed Miéville's vision of a fantasy world—it's not steampunk, but more like industrial revolution fantasy. I was particularly inspired by Perdido Street Station, and how he seamlessly blended a mishmash of cultures and created a believable and vibrant city. In fact, New Crobuzon served as the primary influence for Kaer-Maga, the city I created for the module Seven Swords of Sin; it's a city of outcasts that have come together, a place where a lot of different cultures all intermingle but still manage to work.
Among other books, Joel Rosenberg wrote the "Guardians of the Flame" series, in which the main characters are literally pulled into the game world of the RPG they're playing. Those books were my first introduction to the concept of roleplaying, and as a result the world created by Rosenberg is pretty much the archetypal setting I envision for fantasy roleplaying games. Richard Knaak's "Dragonrealms" series was also very inspirational for me early on, as The Crystal Dragon was the first adult fantasy I picked up (mainly because it had a shiny holographic dragon on the cover).
More than fantasy, though, I'm primarily influenced by science and science fiction—possibly more so than anyone else at the Paizo. I think I've learned more about world building from Dan Simmons than any other author. I especially like blending magic and science, the line where one transitions into the other. When we were first creating Pathfinder, James Jacobs handed me a mostly blank outline for Varisia and told me to run with it. At first I included a lot more science fiction elements; Crystilian was originally the magical equivalent of a particle accelerator, Spindlehorn an ancient space elevator used by long-lost astronauts, and Mundatei was basically a forest of Tesla coils. We ended up working together to change most of that, which was of course the right decision, but some science fiction elements were still retained—Ember Lake, for instance, essentially functions as the place in Varisia where UFO sightings occur, with its phosphorescent, underwater bugs that form strange patterns which can only be seen from the sky.
This concludes Part 1 or my interview with James Sutter about the sources of inspiration he would include in Paizo's own Appendix N. Stay tuned for Part 2, where he discusses how hard science and science fiction continue to influence his fantasy game design, and explains how the nation code-named "Dragon Hitler" would eventually become the island of Hermea.
... The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 2) Monday, March 16, 2009Today we continue the series on Paizo's Appendix N with the second part of my interview with James Jacobs, the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder. We pick up where we left off, as James finishes discussing his most important literary influences and closes the interview with an explanation of his favorite horror films. ... James: Stephen King's Dark Tower books were particularly influential, as they are as much magic and...
The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 2)
Monday, March 16, 2009
Today we continue the series on Paizo's Appendix N with the second part of my interview with James Jacobs, the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder. We pick up where we left off, as James finishes discussing his most important literary influences and closes the interview with an explanation of his favorite horror films.
James: Stephen King's Dark Tower books were particularly influential, as they are as much magic and science fiction as they are horror. What's neat is that all of his stories are interconnected, like Lovecraft's. Names and locations reappear and become part of King's mythos—which also includes nods to the Cthulhu Mythos. I think King very successfully straddles the fine line between homage and pastiche, as it's easy enough to write in the style of Lovecraft and other classic horror authors, but much harder to use those themes while writing with your own voice. Stephen King does this admirably.
F. Paul Wilson, and particularly his character Repairman Jack, was another big influence. The series of stories featuring Repairman Jack are like modern-day X-Files, except that one of the primary themes is the idea that it's just one man versus cosmic horror.
Ramsey Campbell was another influence; he's a British author who began his career writing Lovecraftian horror fiction but later moved on to more psychological horror themes such as madness, ghosts, and deranged murderers.
The Descent, by Jeff Long, really captured my imagination. Without giving away too many details, the novel is essentially about a real-world Darklands. Humans live on the surface of the world, oblivious to the fact that "other" descendents from our common ancestors live beneath them; in the novel, Long explains that, over the course of human history, these creatures have served as the basis for humanity's shared myths of devils living beneath the earth.
David: That's quite an extensive list of fiction! But you're even bigger movie buff, correct? Tell us about the movies that most influenced you.
James: There's probably too many to name all of them; I have a wall of DVDs in my apartment. In terms of movies, my main interest is still horror. When I was a kid, my dad and I would watch Creature Features, a TV series that aired a new monster flick every Saturday night. So my love of horror movies began at an early age. My two all-time favorites are, without a doubt, Alien and John Carpenter's The Thing.
To rattle off other big influences, there's The Blair Witch Project, Godzilla (which asks the question "what if the atomic bomb was actually a creature?"; there is a scene in the movie where a bunch of kids are horribly burned and crying for their moms, not realized that they've been killed—it's super-grisly), Jaws, the Exorcist, Lord of the Rings, Schwarzenegger's Conan, Psycho, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Lilo & Stitch (Stitch served as a primary inspiration for Pathfinder goblins, both in terms of look and personality), and the classic 1950s horror film Tarantula.
Whenever I assign adventures to freelance authors, I like to point them to movies that will give them an idea of the tone we are shooting for—it's much faster for authors to find inspiration by watching a 2-hour movie than to read an entire book, although if they have time in the sometimes too-short deadlines we give them, books can remain a great source of inspiration. For instance, I told Richard Pett to check out the old Hammer Horror movies when he was writing "The Skinsaw Murders" and pointed Nick Logue at The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Deliverance for "The Hook Mountain Massacre."
Overall, I would have to say that my two biggest inspirations are H. P. Lovecraft for books, and John Carpenter for movies.
Thus concludes my interview with James Jacobs. Thanks for taking the time to discuss your biggest inspirations, James, and thanks for reading, Paizonians! Come back again as we continue to expand Paizo's own Appendix N!
... The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 1) Monday, March 9, 2009As part of the ongoing series about Paizo's own Appendix N, I had the opportunity to interview the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder Adventure Path, James Jacobs, about the books and movies that most inspire his own writing. He proved very generous with his time and gave me quite a detailed look into his plan of a shared mythology for Pathfinder and the sources that inspired its creation. Once again, the interview proved...
The Fabled Appendix – James Jacobs (Part 1)
Monday, March 9, 2009
As part of the ongoing series about Paizo's own Appendix N, I had the opportunity to interview the editor-in-chief of Pathfinder Adventure Path, James Jacobs, about the books and movies that most inspire his own writing. He proved very generous with his time and gave me quite a detailed look into his plan of a "shared mythology" for Pathfinder and the sources that inspired its creation. Once again, the interview proved long enough that I have had to break it into two parts. In this first part, James discusses his literary influences.
David: Although I know you're a huge fan of movies, and horror films in particular, let's discuss books first. Which authors or works have stuck the longest in your mind?
James: H. P. Lovecraft was definitely the biggest inspiration. He's my favorite author, and not just mine: Stephen King, Robert Bloch, Gary Gygax, and others expanded on the themes that he created. Lovecraft didn't want to write about vampires or other classic creatures of horror, as these had become cliché at the time when he was writing, so he created his own pantheon of cosmically horrific, god-like beings. He was particularly successful because he encouraged other authors to use the names he had used. Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and Henry Kuttner were all contemporaries of Lovecraft who communicated with him and were influenced by the Cthulhu Mythos that he created. He also pieced together another pantheon of creatures throughout the works of authors for whom he was a ghostwriter, which expanded the Mythos. So his influence is pretty far-reaching.
This is very much like what's going on with the OGL—here are the base concepts of D&D, and other writers or companies can build and share a single mythology. This is what happened with Lovecraft—his themes of cosmic horror influenced the likes of Stephen King; this was the horror of the ordinary, in which libraries and shacks in the woods could become places of terror. Horror is the main source of my inspiration, and why grisly things are going on in Pathfinder. I like to find authors who can carry on this vision—Nic Logue and Richard Pett being two great examples.
Clive Barker is another big inspiration. My grandma and grandpa introduced me to old horror novels and comics when I was young. I remember reading my grandpa's Vault of the Unknown, Tales of the Unexpected, House of Mysteries, and Beware! My grandma would shove Clive Barker or Stephen King into my hands and tell me, "Read this! You'll enjoy it!" Zon-Kuthon is the most obvious example of Barker's influence on Pathfinder, as he is basically a Cenobite from Hellraiser. As Barker's stories mellowed out and became less gory, they took on a more magical, fantastical tone. In fact, his novel Weaveworld served as a primary inspiration for the demiplane of Kakishon in Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #22, "The Edge of Eternity."
It appears that this post has already exceeded the length I was aiming for; the rest of the interview, it seems, must wait for later. In the second installment, James rounds out his discussion of his favorite authors, discusses the fine line between homage and pastiche, and talks about the movies that most influenced his style of game design.
... More of the Fabled Appendix on the Way! Friday, February 27, 2009Greetings fellow blog addicts! ... I'm happy to announce that the road to creating Paizo's very own Appendix N continues, as an interview with Pathfinder's Editor-in-Chief, James Jacobs, is in the works. James's love of Lovecraft, derro, and horror movies is fairly legendary around the office and on the message boards, and he should have a great list of influences for those gamers who want to add a dash (or deluge) of the...
More of the Fabled Appendix on the Way!
Friday, February 27, 2009
Greetings fellow blog addicts!
I'm happy to announce that the road to creating Paizo's very own Appendix N continues, as an interview with Pathfinder's Editor-in-Chief, James Jacobs, is in the works. James's love of Lovecraft, derro, and horror movies is fairly legendary around the office and on the message boards, and he should have a great list of influences for those gamers who want to add a dash (or deluge) of the horrific in their games.
As usual, the Paizo staff has been swamped, and figuring out how to coax them to take some time out from their busy schedules and endure my probably too-eager interrogations has been vexing me. Fortunately, Wes Schneider suggested rolling a d6 to determine which "lucky" staff member would have the honor of being interviewed next. As you can see, Mr. Jacobs was—unfortunately for him—assigned the number 2. Hooray for us!
... The Fabled Appendix – Erik Mona (Part 3) Friday, February 20, 2009In the second part of my interview with Erik Mona about which books, movies, and other resources he would include in Paizo's Appendix N, he explained how the idea of a devil-worshiping colonial power—the concept of which eventually became the feared nation of Cheliax—began as a faction in a miniatures game that he developed in his free time. In this conclusion, Erik reveals that several other nations of...
The Fabled Appendix – Erik Mona (Part 3)
Friday, February 20, 2009
In the second part of my interview with Erik Mona about which books, movies, and other resources he would include in Paizo's Appendix N, he explained how the idea of a devil-worshiping colonial power—the concept of which eventually became the feared nation of Cheliax—began as a faction in a miniatures game that he developed in his free time. In this conclusion, Erik reveals that several other nations of Golarion, including Andoran and the Land of the Linnorm Kings, had their beginnings in his miniatures game as well. Of course, no version of the fabled Appendix N would be complete without a list of inspiration and educational reading, and Erik admirably provides a hefty list of source material!
Erik: Another colonial power in the miniatures game was the Vikings; the fact that I am from Minnesota, am a fan of the Vikings football team, am of Scandinavian ancestry, and am a fan of Vikings as a sword and sorcery archetype in general, made their conclusion pretty much inevitable. A lot of S&S authors, such as Robert E. Howard and Poul Anderson, pulled the Icelandic sagas into their own worlds. I wanted to bring this archetype into the world of Pathfinder.
Before we began working on Pathfinder, I created a homebrew setting for my own games. While I never got the chance to play in the world, the very first region I detailed in this setting was the realm of the Vikings, which I called the Land of the Linnorm Kings; when we created Golarion, I imported this realm, name and all, directly into the world. A number of sources influenced my vision of the Vikings: the Icelandic sagas, Poul Anderson's The Valor of Cappen Varra, The 13th Warrior, a number of different history books about the Vikings, and my own visits to Norway.
Another faction in the miniatures game included a fantasy version of colonial America as well as a faction inspired by Revolutionary France. Thus, Andoran and Galt were part of my conception of Golarion right from the beginning. A number of books influenced my conception of the Revolutionary faction, such as Claude Manceron's 5-book series The Age of the French Revolution about France in the years leading up to the Revolution, and Simon Schama's Citizens—I loved the idea of how the revolution started with idealistic intentions but then went horribly wrong.
A number of sources inspired the creation of other regions in Golarion: Irrisen is essentially the realm of the White Queen of Narnia meets Baba Yaga; the Realm of the Mammoth Lords was designed as an homage to classic Lost World tales of megafauna and giants, as well as Hollow Earth-style settings of the kind Edgar Rice Burroughs created; Numeria could best be described as Expedition to the Barrier Peaks meets Thundarr the Barbarian; Mendev was inspired by tales of the Crusades, and has elements of the Demon War from John Ostrander's GrimJack comic book, the Swarm from Hugh Cook's novels, and the forces of Chaos from Warhammer Fantasy; the primary sources of inspiration for the River Kingdoms were the Bandit Kingdoms of Greyhawk and the Young Kingdoms from Michael Moorcock's Elric series; Taldor was inspired by the climate and visuals of the Crusader kingdoms in the Holy Land, as well as the cultural decadence of Ancient Rome and pre-Revolution France; and Absalom was heavily influenced by HBO's Rome series, which depicted noble families whose lineages stretch back thousands of years, while the Starstone and the religious faiths with which it is associated are an obvious parallel of Jerusalem. The Starstone itself is inspired by the Kaaba in Mecca, and was named after a short story by Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore titled The Quest of the Starstone. Planet Stories has reprinted Quest of the Starstone in both Northwest of Earth and Black God's Kiss, by C. L. Moore.
Thanks for reading, Paizonians! Stay tuned for more interviews with Paizo staff members as we continue to expand Paizo's Appendix N!
... The Fabled Appendix - Erik Mona (Part 2) Wednesday, February 18, 2009This is the second part of my interview with Erik Mona about the sources of inspiration he would list if Paizo created its own Appendix N. In today's blog, Erik discusses the books and ideas that inspired his creation of Osirion and Cheliax, two of the best-known regions of the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting. ... David: What historical, mythological, or fictional sources did you use to develop Osirion? I know you...
The Fabled Appendix - Erik Mona (Part 2)
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
This is the second part of my interview with Erik Mona about the sources of inspiration he would list if Paizo created its own "Appendix N." In today's blog, Erik discusses the books and ideas that inspired his creation of Osirion and Cheliax, two of the best-known regions of the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting.
David: What historical, mythological, or fictional sources did you use to develop Osirion? I know you mentioned The Sirius Mystery on the message boards. Any other sources like this?
Erik: I've always been interested in Ancient Egypt. In terms of books, one of my favorites was a collection of illustrations made by the surveyors who traveled with Napoleon's army throughout Egypt. Napoleon's scientific surveys of Egypt were a major inspiration for the whole concept of the Pathfinder Society—a group of explorers and treasure seekers whose level of altruism can vary greatly.
Another source of inspiration was the book you mentioned, Robert Temple's The Sirius Mystery. Temple introduces the concept that alien astronauts, aquatic beings from a planet orbiting the Dog Star, came down and gave culture to the Ancient Egyptians. After reading this, I immediately had visions of aqueducts, waterways, and pools surrounding Egypt, with aboleths swimming in their depths, commanding the people to construct enormous monuments. In fact, the name "Osirion" comes from this mixture of Egyptian culture and alien influences, as it plays off of the names Sirius and Osiris.
David: What's the story behind Cheliax? When did you come up with the idea of having a nation of devil-worshippers? What were your primary sources of inspiration?
Erik: I grew up in Minnesota, and while I was visiting the state capital I saw an image that became indelibly burned into my brain, of a Christian monk preaching to a group of American Indians. Since then, the idea of religious colonization has always been in the back of my mind. A while ago, I designed a miniatures-based game just for fun. I wanted the game to have a lot of inherent conflict, so I came up with the idea of a fantasy society that discovers gateways to another world rich in resources. I wanted to make the game about colonization and the conflicts that arise from that, so I decided that I needed several factions that had antipathy for each other. For one of the factions, I went back to that image for the missionary—except instead of the Christian cross, I made their icon a pentagram. This took the theme I was aiming for—religious colonization—and made it undeniably, inherently evil.
For the faction's title, I used the name of an evil empire I had created for a piece of sword and sorcery fiction that I wrote in college. At the time, I had named this empire Chelan because of a horrible family vacation that we had at Lake Chelan in Washington State. After I moved to Washington, I wanted to change the name, but at the same time to make it sound more evil. Cheliax, in Golarion, originally started out in my mind as a colonial power—Arcadia being the stand-in for the unexplored continent that was in my miniatures game.
Thus ends the second part of my interview with Erik about his sources of inspiration. In the conclusion, Erik reveals how his miniatures game gave birth to several other Golarion nations and explains how Thundarr the Barbarian fits into the whole picture. Sources of inspiration abound!
... The Fabled Appendix – Erik Mona Monday, February 16, 2009As was explained in my introductory blog post, the purpose of this series is to create Paizo's very own Appendix N, a semi-comprehensive list of the books, comics, movies, and roleplaying products that influenced each member of the Paizo staff in their work on the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting. To begin this series, there seemed no better place to start than with one of the original creators of Golarion and the...
The Fabled Appendix – Erik Mona
Monday, February 16, 2009
As was explained in my introductory blog post, the purpose of this series is to create Paizo's very own Appendix N, a semi-comprehensive list of the books, comics, movies, and roleplaying products that influenced each member of the Paizo staff in their work on the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting. To begin this series, there seemed no better place to start than with one of the original creators of Golarion and the driving force behind Planet Stories, Erik Mona. He had quite a bit to say. By the time we finished lunch, I had filled three complete pages with notes and had been forced to finish transcribing the interview on a napkin. Unfortunately (or fortunately as the case may be), the length of the interview has forced us to break it into three parts. In this first installment, Erik reveals which authors most influenced his idea for the general feel he wanted to give Golarion.
David: What authors or titles stand out to you as most influential on your game design and upon Golarion?
Erik: Robert E. Howard's Conan series, particularly the collections of the original Conan stories that have been published by Del Rey—The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, The Conquering Sword of Conan—those ones; Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories; Moorcock's Elric series; China Miéville's stories, particularly Perdido Street Station and The Scar; Jack Vance's 4-book Dying Earth series (which I think is now published in a Dying Earth omnibus); C. L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry series ; Hugh Cook's 10-book series The Chronicles of an Age of Darkness; H. P. Lovecraft; and Henry Kuttner's The Dark World and Elak of Atlantis.
A lot of these authors and titles influenced the mood and tone of the setting, as far as being sword and sorcery stories. Michael Moorcock's Elric series being the only exception, these stories feature protagonists who are not superhuman; each is just a dude. It's like how Captain America is a regular guy compared to the other Marvel superheroes—he can't fly and doesn't have any remarkable powers. Batman obviously falls into this category as well. The characters in these stories are powerful but not superhumanly so. More importantly, almost, is the idea that the environment itself is the antagonist, and the characters are exceptional—but otherwise ordinary—people who must fight back or the world will destroy them.
Tolkien was an influence only so far as he influenced D&D. The world he created just didn't fit with what we were trying to do with Golarion. To be honest, it is too hopeful, not grim enough. I asked Jason Bulmahn when we were first creating Golarion, rhetorically, if it would be possible for Paizo to build a world without gnomes, dwarves, elves, and the like. Of course we immediately came to the conclusion that it would be impossible, but it gives you an idea of what we were trying to achieve with Golarion.
Gary Gygax's Gord the Rogue books were very influential in the way that they showed, through storytelling and world-building, the sort of milieux that the inherent style of a world governed by the game's rules. Even if used simply as a point of departure, that's an invaluable resource. The early Thieves World anthologies were also an influence, more in terms of style and world-view than anything else. Greyhawk and Sanctuary are photocopies of Leiber's Lankhmar, and when it comes to a location most exemplifying the fantasy RPG spirit, Lankhmar is the place.
Thus concludes the first part of my interview with Erik and the first installment of The Fabled Appendix. Next time: Erik discusses how Osirion and Cheliax were born, and the books and horrible vacations that inspired their creation.
... The Fabled Appendix! Thursday, February 12, 2009For my inaugural blog post, I thought I'd try to hark back to some of the old-school roots that Paizo has blended together to create the world of Golarion. As many members of the Paizo staff have been playing the game since first edition, they've made it a design goal to create a setting that is true to the roots of the hobby while remaining fresh and exciting. ... At the time of the publication of the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide in...
The Fabled Appendix!
Thursday, February 12, 2009
For my inaugural blog post, I thought I'd try to hark back to some of the old-school roots that Paizo has blended together to create the world of Golarion. As many members of the Paizo staff have been playing the game since first edition, they've made it a design goal to create a setting that is true to the roots of the hobby while remaining fresh and exciting.
At the time of the publication of the first edition Dungeon Masters Guide in 1979, the book's Appendix N was fairly revolutionary. This appendix consisted of a list of pulp fantasy authors that E. Gary Gygax considered to have had the largest role in shaping Dungeons & Dragons. This list included such famous authors as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, H. P. Lovecraft, and Michael Moorcock. What made Appendix N so remarkable was that, at the time, most these authors were relatively unknown, with only a handful of older authors enjoying a resurgence of popularity thanks to the efforts of contemporary fantasists such as L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter.
Since the publication of that first DMG, Appendix N has played a role in the development of the hobby that is hard to overemphasize. The authors and works listed in the appendix influenced the earliest editions of the game and continue to steer game designers 30 years later. The first two printings of the first edition Deities & Demigods, for instance, contained the Melnibonéan pantheon from Michael Moorcock's Elric series, as well as the Great Old Ones of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos. And today in the Pathfinder Chronicles campaign setting, Edgar Rice Burroughs's tales of Mars and Venus have helped to inspire Golarion's own red and green sister planets. Indeed, the whole Planet Stories line was launched with the intent of reintroducing pulp fantasy authors to modern gamers. The roots of Appendix N are deep and far-reaching indeed.
With this in mind, I plan to explore which books, movies, comics, and roleplaying products members of the Paizo staff have found most influential in both their style of design and the development of Golarion. And our first interviewee will be Paizo's own publisher, Erik Mona. Look for it next time!
... Gary Gygax: Remembered Tuesday, March 4, 2008The galley proofs for Gary Gygax's novel, The Samarkand Solution, are sitting on my desk right now, ready for the final check-off before we send the book to the printer. Sitting above my desk, packed into little cardboard sleeves, are dozens of copies of Dragon, the original RPG magazine for which Gygax served as publisher in its earliest days. Until recently, I served as publisher of that magazine, and it always made me proud to know I was...
Gary Gygax: Remembered
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The galley proofs for Gary Gygax's novel, The Samarkand Solution, are sitting on my desk right now, ready for the final check-off before we send the book to the printer. Sitting above my desk, packed into little cardboard sleeves, are dozens of copies of Dragon, the original RPG magazine for which Gygax served as publisher in its earliest days. Until recently, I served as publisher of that magazine, and it always made me proud to know I was following in Gary Gygax's august footsteps.
Gary died this morning in his sleep, bringing to an end a decades-spanning career that created an industry and brought joy to millions of people. The game he created with Dave Arneson&Dungeons & Dragons&has had a more profound influence upon my life than any other factor save my family, and his passing has affected me deeply.
When I was a kid growing up with D&D, Gygax's name was on the cover of just about every official product. He wrote the best adventure modules, he set the template for all future campaign settings with the World of Greyhawk, and perhaps most importantly he introduced a generation of kids to a game that was more than a game. I've met many of my closest friends in the span of my entire life because of Gary Gygax.
Last year, I launched Planet Stories, a line of fantasy and science-fiction trade paperbacks aimed at reprinting some of the classic works of sword & sorcery that inspired Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy gaming in general. In the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, a fascinating work that surely serves as Gygax's masterpiece, Gary thoughtfully included Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading, a list that included such luminaries as Michael Moorcock, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, Fritz Leiber, H. P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Jack Vance, and more.
So in addition to my friends and my career, I also owe Gary Gygax an unpayable debt of gratitude for introducing me to the greatest fantasists who ever lived and a lifetime of excellent reading. Planet Stories is, in some small sense, my attempt to repay that debt by bringing many of these fine authors back into print to be enjoyed again. Like Paizo Publishing itself, Planet Stories exists because of Gary Gygax. I chose to honor Gary by including several of his own exciting fantasy novels in the Planet Stories line, including the imprint's very first release, The Anubis Murders.
It was the release of The Anubis Murders at last year's Gen Con Indy that brought me and Gary together for the last time. As the show's Guest of Honor, Gygax had more than a full schedule, but he was able to carve out a couple of hours a day to sit at the Paizo booth and sign autographs of his book while sharing thoughts and memories with his fans. And the stories those fans told were just incredible. For a full hour I listened as gamer after gamer approached Gary and told a variation of the exact same story: "Thank you for a game that has brought me so much joy. Thank you for a game that has brought me so many friends. Thank you for making such a positive impact on my life."
Sitting next to Gary at last year's Gen Con made me realize what a huge cultural impact Gary Gygax had made on all of us. Never before have I seen such honest appreciation. Never before had I been so moved and so proud to be working with a man who had made such an impact on my life. On all of our lives.
When a friend passes away, it is easy to be sad, to think about what might have been had he lived another year, another ten years. But my friends, I am here to tell you that Gary Gygax knew what a difference he had made in all of our lives, and he was proud to have made it.
Not bad for a life's work.
I'll miss you, Gary Gygax. We all will. Goodbye, my friend.