Literature and Gaming


Note: As many of the books I will be discussing are in the public domain, their titles link to where you can download free ebooks of them from Project Gutenberg or MobileRead, the online community that provided the vast majority of the books on my ereader.

Both as players and as GMs, we get our inspiration from a variety of sources. I’ve always been a fan of classic literature, but lately I’ve been reading even more than usual. As I was working my way through volume 3 of Tarzan, the next story in the book sounded like it might be a sort-of sequel to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Interior of the Earth. As that was also on my reading list, I decided to read it first, especially since Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea is one of my favorite books.

One thing I love about roleplaying is that it makes me relate to books in new ways – even books I don’t otherwise enjoy!

I’m sad to say that the book was rather disappointing (prompting me to read The Mysterious Island, over which I have lost sleep since I can’t put it down), but it still inspired me to run a sci-fi or sci-fantasy campaign set inside a Dyson Sphere-inspired planet with a small artificial sun, but the population has no idea that they are inside a man-made sphere, because millennia ago something happened that knocked civilization back to the Stone Age. One thing I love about roleplaying is that it make me relate to books in new ways – even books I don’t otherwise enjoy!

That got me wondering how many other roleplayers are literature buffs. I assume that most, if not all, are at least familiar with The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, even if they haven’t read them, but what about other classics?

So here’s what I’d like to know:
1) What is your favorite work of classic fiction?
2) What is your favorite work of classic fiction to use as gaming inspiration?

I’ll get us started:
#1 has to be A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, the only really old book I read at least once a year. Time travel stories have always been among my favorites, as are any that star engineers (at the time of my accident I was studying Mechanical Engineering, with my sights set on being an inventor; now I instead invent games and stories) – Yankee has both. In a very rare occurrence, I even like every adaptation of it I’ve ever seen (especially Bing Crosby’s rom-com treatment), despite the fact that I have yet to see one that is even remotely close to the source material, especially in tone.

#2 is tougher. Tolkien’s writings, especially The Silmarillion, have always determined what I think of when I hear “elf” when talking about roleplaying games. Oddly, even though I hear people repeatedly say they are tired of all the Tolkien elves in trpgs, I have yet to see one that actually has Tolkien elves. Tolkien’s elves mostly look like humans, but are more beautiful and imbued with more innate magic.

That last aspect inspired the three different types of humans in one of my books (elves have more magic potential, and that tends to make them have strangely-colored eyes and hair, but they are otherwise exactly like other humans). For the past several years that world has been my default setting for each new campaign (although I don’t always stick with it), so I think it’s safe to say that it is from Tolkien’s books as a whole that I have derived the most gaming inspiration, from The Silmarillion most of all.

So what about you? What are your favorites?

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2 thoughts on “Literature and Gaming

  1. Tura Lura

    1) What is your favorite work of classic fiction?

    Good question. I haven’t read many classics lately, but Little Women has always been a favorite of mine. Oh! I know! It’s another of Louisa May Alcott’s books, but it’s not very well known: An Old-Fashioned Girl. I really need to get my own copy of that. I should go check Gutenberg.

    2) What is your favorite work of classic fiction to use as gaming inspiration?

    I, too, have to go with the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. His books were one of the inspirations for my fantasy world. The world in which my GURPS Fantasy/Supers game is set. ^_^

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  2. Matt

    I haven’t actually run a game yet, but I’ll let you know. Right now I am researching The Dresden Files RPG, based on the Fate system, and starting to keep notes for plot lines and characters.

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