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.

David Eitelbach
Editorial Intern

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