Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Books of Genesis

When I started playing D&D in the Autumn of '76, you could always identify the D&Ders by the books they carried. It was almost exclusively The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, one of the John Carter series, or The Sword of Shannara. I'm not sure why I didn't see Conan, Elric, or Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Maybe the small town I was in didn't carry them, or the high school library didn't have them. Maybe my memory is becoming more porous.

In any event, this book, The Sword of Shannara, had as much, if not more, impact on my development as a gamer than anything I would read after. The cover is so striking to me still. The opening scene with Flick travelling that wooded path at dusk is still one of the very best atmospheric pieces ever. The brooding ominousness of Allanon. Panamon Creel was the proto-Han Solo. Something about the dwarves living in the hills as opposed to inside the mountains was very compelling to me, as well. Oh, and thanks to Mr. Brooks I've never been able to get my mind around gnomes as a charming little PC race.

I adore this book, at least partly due to the lack of memories that burdened my reading of it. When I read this the only of the Professor's work I had read was The Hobbit. So, I wasn't aware of how much Sword mimics LotR. Even now, 35 yeas later, and with full knowledge of that, I can still enjoy this book solely on its own merits.

I eventually made most of the rounds of the "classic" D&D inspiration, but this one will always have a special place in my memories. I carried a battered copy with me for weeks, even though I had finished it almost as soon as I got home with it. It was like a badge that proclaimed "I play this magical new game called D&D", but its proclamation was only received by those that already knew its meaning. It was like some sort of secret handshake.

So, what books influenced your genesis into the hobby?

1 comment:

  1. I love the Shannara books, have read them all and enjoyed them. They are some of the few books I've read multiple times, and although the first book has a few LotR elements, the series as a whole goes in different directions. I love the fact that there are things in it from our world, which all makes sense when you get to the latest books that bridge the gaps between his Word & the Void books and the Shannara ones.

    These, and the first lot of the Riftwar Saga, have influenced me more than any others. I read these before I ever read LotR or the Hobbit, and only recently rediscovered Tolkien (so much so that I'm delving into the whole History of Middle-earth books now).