17 November, 2010

Books and Games and Games and Books

It occurs to me there is a certain odd reciprocal arrangement between the sort of fantasy books DnD players like to read. I've no idea if this is the rule or the exception, but in my experience it's almost 100% accurate.

People who like games where characters are extraordinary and pregnant with powers (4e) tend to prefer books about people who are painfully average and nearly clueless about adventuring (Jordan, Goodkind.)

People who like games where characters are average and have only the most basic abilities (ODnD) tend to prefer books about people who are extraordinary and exemplify the ideal adventurer (Howard, Eddison, Moorcock.)

In other news, I plan to update the Tekumel adventure tomorrow, and then again on the weekend. I'm considering then settling into updating it once a week on Thursday nights, in honor of Prof. Barker's Thursday night games. I'm not sure once a week will provide enough progress though..


Scott said...

It might also be that the first set of authors are "modern mainstream fantasy" known even (or especially) to young philistines, and the second are more likely to have been read by folks of the appropriate generation to have played the older games. One doesn't see as much shelf space devoted to the latter in chain bookstores as the former.

I'm not sure how a modern gamer would even know Eddison or Moorcock's work existed, and the execrable Conan the Barbarian movie - a young philistine's most likely avenue for exposure to Howard these days - came out before they were born.

Hell, I think most gamers were completely unexposed to classic fantasy as far back as 2e.

It's an interesting observation, though ... the default mode these days does seem to be cliched Bildungsroman rather than joining fully-formed heroes in media res.

migellito said...

You're right, the consideration of timing could definitely be the source of it.

On going into a chain bookstore these days, one gets the impression that the authors with a 10 volume series of 800 page books is the 'successful' one.

Trey said...

Wel, I like Jordan, but not Goodkind, and just about every old guy you can think of, so I'm inclined to think this isn't a strong correlation.

I would also suggest your kind of comparing two different genres. Jordan and Goodkind and a lot of other multivolume fantasies have "heroes journey" thing going on. Farmboys discover their destiny. That's just popular now.

None of the older works you namy take that structure. But you could have named older works that do The Hobbit, The Chronicles of Prydain, or James Branch Cabell's Figures of Earth, for instance.

Evan said...

I'm not sure how a modern gamer would even know Eddison or Moorcock's work existed...

I'm in a particularly good place to address this since, aside from the fact that I play OSD&D, I'm a "modern gamer."

Moorcock is easy: they carry collections of his work in BAM and other chain bookstores. He's not difficult to find.

Eddison on the other hand... Well I just remembered who he was a few days ago when you (that is, Scott) started mentioning him again. I first found out about him through Grognardia. Make of that what you will.

Interestingly I actually found Leiber through Wizards of the Coast. When they first started doing podcasts they did one on using cities in your game and they cited Leiber as inspiration. This was between the White Wolf and Dark Horse editions so he was currently out of print and difficult to find and it would be a few years before I got my hands on his stuff.

Every one of my old gaming friends, who are all about my age, loves this movie as do some of my non-gaming friends of equal age. It's still available and pretty widely watched.

I'd prefer it if they read the REH originals, but I'll take what I can get.

Dangerous Brian said...

Interesting points. I wonder though, how many other gamers out there enjoy the third cateogry of novels?

The one's with sweeping politics, multiple plot-lines and level 30 characters hurling fireballs that set whole towns on fire?

I'm thinking specifically of Stephen Erikson. If his books arn't about several diffferent adventurering parties running around in one huge sandbox campaign, then that's probably at least what the series is modelled on.

I expect it's one of the reasons I like his work so much.

Evan said...

Oh, I forgot to mention.

CAS more or less breaks your model, but perhaps he is the exception that proves the rule.

I've often described his work as various accounts of TPKs. This isn't true of all of them, but it is true of many. It works well as a counter to that "the main characters never die in adventure fiction" argument I've seen leveled at OSD&D.

ckutalik said...

I think Erikson did admit that his first few books at least were modeled on a long-standing campaign of his. And now that you mention probably a good model for someone who actually would want to run the "M" and "I" portions of the BECMI chain.

Too bad Erikson was one of those few writers that I would go from chapter to chapter alternating from loving to cringing. There was some great stuff nonetheless along the way.

migellito said...

Excellent points all! Your views are greatly appreciated!