Books To Inspire And Entertain
This page is intended to let me share with you my love of books. The ones I am going to concentrate on here are those that I have found most inspiring as a both a Dungeon Master and a Player. I won't mention many with direct links to Dungeons and Dragons as you can take it as read that these will contain excellent examples of PC's, NPC's descriptions of locations and adventures that can easily be adapted into any campaign. Instead I will concentrate on books that may not always have an immediate association with the game of Dungeons & Dragons. One of my great pleasures other than reading books is finding them. Unless it is a book in a series I am collecting I tend not to buy them in bookshops. Instead the thrill of the chase, poking around small markets in out of the way market towns or charity shops in the largersettlements is more exciting. Luckily my wife also enjoys these pleasures and we usually come home from a week's holiday with the car laden down with numerous hard won prizes to be drooled over at our leisure or consumed rapidly on the London Underground.
J. R.R Tolkien's The Lord Of The Rings
I wish I had 50p for each person who wrote in to say 'Waht about the Lord Of The Rings.' Yes I forgot to add this to the list to start with. Now at the risk of starting a flame war I will give my opinion of the books. First off I love the story, it is exciting and engaging. The scenary is described vividly and he builds tension well throughout the trilogy. However many of the characters are rather two-dimensional. In particular Legolas and Gimli have very little in terms of background and character development. The only characters for me that really stand out are Boromir, Gandalf, Sam and Frodo. The others are at best characatures.
The film is ace, though I prefer the BBC radio series as it's greater length allows for more plot development.
These are classic and rightly so. The two heros, Fafhrd the barbarian fighter and The Grey Mouser, a nimble and sly thief are the archetypes for many a PC and NPC. In fact Jodotha (meet him soon in the Trials Of Trimus) is very loosly based on The Grey Mouser. Ingenious traps, amazing adventures and excellent writting are combined to produce a series of stories that are difficult to put down. I found the first one in a local second hand book shop but it took me another two years to find the rest (all at once in a market in Totnes). These are 'Must Haves' in any DM's collection!
Barbara Hambly's Starhawk & Sun Wolf Series
I have only recently started reading this author and already she has inspired me with a number of new monsters and a fully fledged adventure from this series. The stories are gripping, with interesting plots, but more importantly the characters are three dimensional. You can believe in them and unlike some authors you never know if she will kill the, off or do them permenant harm. They have a darkness to them as well as a light. Also worth reading by the same author is the Darwath Trilogy.
Katherine Kurtz's Deryni Books
These are the best! Nothing else comes close to the quality of writing, the depth or characterisation and the emotional ties you develop as you read these books. The world itself would make a great setting for a low magic, politics rich campaign setting (WotC are you reading this?). Perhaps some day I will set a PBeM in Gwynedd and share the wonder with you. The books concern the problems a minority magic using race (the Deryni) have with the majority God fearing non-magic using populace. Unlike other authors Kurtz often kills off her characters heros as well as villains and my fellow tube passengers will have seen me wipe away a tear or two at the end of a book. If you can get hold of them read them and treasure them, this is as good as it gets!
Harry Harrison's Hammer & The Cross Trilogy
An excellent alternative history of the Danes. Harrison has exemplified chaos theory with this series of novels, 'a small change in initial parameters will lead to a large variance in the final outcome.' He has created an alternative pantheon of gods and followers and with subtle pokes and prods changed the whole of history. A brillient series of books. Great if you want to spice up your campaign set in the Northlands.
Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy
Gothic fantasy at its best. Rich, dense prose, fulsome descriptions of a fantasy world set almost entirely within a single building; Ghormenghast. A great setting for Ravenloft or other horror settings. Difficult to get into at first but the quality of writing will drag you on until you find yourself living through the eyes of Flay, Steerpike, Swelter and Fuschia not to mention Doctor Prunesqualler and his wife Irma.
Guy Gavriel Kay's Lions Of Al-Rassan
Unashamedly romantic this is a great resource for campaigns in Ylaruam or Al-Quadim. As in his other books (especially Tigana) the stories are deep and the characters real with human flaws and frailties.
Lindsey Davis' Falco books
Not fantasy but historical detective fiction set in Imperial Rome during the reign of Vespasian. Ideal for those Thyatian campaigns - including mine! The hero Falco is a public informer - a rogue with ideas well above his station. He solves crimes in Britain, Spain, North Africa as well as in the Eternal City irself. What sets it apart though is the attention to detail (my wife, a classical scholar, has yet to find a serious fault) and the humour. These books will have you rolling in the aisles at some of the situations Falco finds himself in. Seven books so far and not a dud yet - quite a record.
Robert Jordan's Wheel Of Time Series
Soft, strong and very very long! Some of this is very satisfying and a rattling good read but I feel sometimes that he has stretched things a little too far. Still plenty of ideas here for magical artifacts and a different style of magic and spellcasting. What if everytime you cast a spell you had to make a saving throw, might reduce the amount of fireballs and lightning bolts!
These are a series of twelve volumes of short stories, plus a number of stand alone novels set in a shared world and a city named Sanctuary. This like Leiber's Lankhmar are ideal settings for thief based campaigns. The characters are well developed and the stories fast paced and often humourous. A number of these tales may well find there way into adventures in one or other of my campaigns as might some of the characters.
Raymond E. Feist's Midkemia Books
Great battles, powerful mages and all round good writting. I don't believe he has written a duff word in any of his books. My favorite of all would probably be The King's Buccaneer, though silverthorn runs it a close second. The only problem is that all DM's now think they can transcript their D&D sessions into number one best sellers! At least I know my Tales Of Trimus is a load of old tosh and charge nothing for it!
Jack Vance's Dying Earth
The sourcebook for many of the original spells and magic items in the D&D game these books are another must read for DM's and players. Cugel's Saga and Rhialto the Marvellous are my favourite from this collection. His Lyonesse series are also worth reading as is Emphyro he has a unique style of writing that means that you can spot his work without needing to read the cover.
A. A. Attanasio's Wyvern
Another author with a unique writing style. Wyvern is a rambling tale with elements many different fantasy genres incorporated into it. He has written many other novels, all are worth reading but 'The Last Legends of Earth' is probably my favourite.
Lynn Flewelling's Nightrunner Series
Excellent fantasy romps for those who like to play rogues. I was once accused of basing an NPC on one of the protaganists. I wish I had as the characters in these three books are some of the best developed and rounded of all.
Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders and Assassin Series
One word. Brilliant. Read them now!
Deborah Turner Harris Caledon Of The Mist Series
Very well written with a different spin on an elf-like race and thier relationship with humans.
Poul & Karen Anderson The King of Ys Series
A great series of books set in an alternative Europe during the Roman period. Geat characters, interesting plots and a great source for Celtic and Roman Dieties for D&D.
Gemmell writes the best battle scenes of any fantasy writer. He also creates very good flawed characters but sometimes I think his plots are a little 'samish'. A favourite is Lion Of Macedon' a fantasy retelling of Greek history.
What can you say about Moorcock. He possibly invented the idea of inteligent weapons, wrote some great song lyrics for the band Blue Öyster Cult and his Eternal Champion series of books are another example of the flawed hero. The stories however are a little patchy. Some are very good others appear to have been knocked off in an afternoon when he needed a few bob. Particular favourites are the Corum and Elric series.
Terry Pratchett's Diskworld Series
And now for something completely different. Pratchett has written some of the funniest fantasy novels ever but he doesn't make fun of the genre just uses it to generate laughs. Great characters (Cohen The Barbarian is my favourite) and wonderful plots often taking the p*ss out of modern moralities as well as other fantasy novels.
Melanie Rawn's Dragon Prince Saga
Unusual take on magic, great characterisations and an author who is not afraid to kill off major characters at a moment's notice. Some raunchy bits as well, but tastefully done. Some of my favourite books, a good D&D source for desert based games.
The rest ..
I could go on and on but you haven't got all day! I could mention The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant by Steven Donaldson, or The Belgariad by David Eddings. Both are classics of fantasy. Then there is the lesser known but equally accomplished Majipoor books by Robert Silverberg. Judith Tarr's A Wind in Cairo is a wonderful tale of magic in a fantasy Cairo. I must also list here the first fantasy books I ever read. A place were animals can talk and a splendid place to get Turkish Delight. I am talking about Narnia of course. C.S. Lewis' world is wonderfuly described and the Christian metaphors are never too heavy handed, except perhaps in The Last Battle.
I'm sure you have your own favourites. Why not write to me and share them.
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