Friday, June 25, 2010

Grymvald's Pedigree - The Early Years

The first fantastical elements that influenced my impressions of the fantasy genre were the stories of Robert E. Howard. I had been a fan of the short story for sometime, having read much of Isaac Asimov's shorter work, many Ray Bradbury pieces, and all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, when I discovered Howard. The illustrations by Frank Frazetta on the covers of the late sixties paperback editions from Ace Books caught my eye in the bookstore and I tore through the ones I could get my hands on in a matter of months. Although they did not quite measure up to Howard, I even enjoyed the stories in that series from Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, and others. I think I might have actually enjoyed the series all the more for its putting the edited tales and well-massaged fragments into a chronological order for the rise of the hero rather than chronologically as they were written by Howard.

I was also very much into war games at that time and just getting into miniatures, particularly medieval fantasy miniatures, with dragons and giants and scores of knights, heavily-armored and armed, clashing in great charges across felt-strewn battlefields. When Dungeons and Dragons came along in 1974 it was only natural I would heed the call. A friend of mine would act as Dungeon Master for his two brothers, another friend or two, and myself as we battled through the early, very deadly, games. We did not find it frustrating when those first characters died in the bottoms of ten by ten pits with poisoned spikes or when they succumbed to the terrible creatures we stalked beneath the cold earth in bewildering maze-like tombs. It all made a certain strange sense and we took the passing of multiple characters in stride.

But the reader and writer in me longed to create a setting of my own. I did not want to write a story to be used in the game. I knew from my short time as a player that the characters in a game needed to have a certain free rein to go where they wanted to go, to do as they pleased and deal with the consequences. What I wanted to do was develop a world where the characters could wander as the various aspects they discovered took their interest. That was the goal and this blog will be primarily devoted to the results.