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Troy’s Crock Pot: Gnome Reading Library

What’s the Crock Pot? Just a simmering bowl of lentils and herbs, with a dash of DMing observations. Don’t be afraid to dip in your ladle and stir, or throw in something from your own spice rack.

Hanging out with merry men

My summer reading has been pretty light. But I picked up one gem that hadn’t been checked out at our local library for two years: “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” by Howard Pyle.

This meaty book — 296 pages tucked away in the children’s section — is worth revisiting. Once you get past Pyle’s turn-of-the-century British English, DMs will find a treasure trove of adventure ideas. For instance, “Robin Turns Butcher” is a great form for PCs to play a game of one-upmanship on an adversary. Change a few names and it’s unlikely your players will know they were inspired by a band of merry men from Sherwood Forest.

 Go West, young man

I also picked up “Wyatt Earp” by Matt Braun, a fictionalized account of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. I’m not usually a reader of westerns, but I really liked the feel of this book, which gives a different take on events than the most recent incarnations seen on the big screen. Oh, and it comes with a map of Tombstone, Ariz., circa 1881 — so if you need a mining boom town for your game, western or otherwise, it’s a bonus.

Rah-Rah for R.A.

I can’t say that I’m a particular fan of a certain drow ranger, but I do enjoy R.A. Salvatore’s approach to the Realms. His writing style, sparce and focused on character motivations and paced with bouts of fast action, suits my tastes. Plus, his portrayal of the North is galvanized in my mind.

That said, I’m taking my time digesting Salvatore’s works. A book here, a book there, and in no particular order. Of late I’ve tackled “Streams of Silver” and “Promise of the Witch-King.” It was interesting seeing two sides of Artemis Entreri, basically as villain and “hero” in quick succession.

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5 Comments To "Troy’s Crock Pot: Gnome Reading Library"

#1 Comment By Scott Martin On August 7, 2008 @ 10:30 am

What’s in your “to read” pile Troy? I like your mix of books– sometimes I’m very eclectic with lots of non-fiction from various areas and fiction all jumbled, and sometimes I get in a fiction rut. [It’s a good rut.]

If you like epic quests, Gillian Bradshaw’s Hawk of May has a great one to steal. (If politics is your thing, the whole trilogy has a great unstable situation.)

#2 Comment By Azmo On August 7, 2008 @ 11:12 am

I always find that a good book helps ‘prime the pump’ for GMing. I have certain books that I read before beginning a new campaign and I try and match them to the game I am running, at least thematically.

Before any Shadowrun game, I always re-read William Gibson’s Neuromancer. The setting is grim, gritty and cold and lends itself to a world where people are at worst pieces of a de-humanizing machine and at best, the squeaky wheels in that machine.

Prior to running Mage: The Ascension I used to re-read all of my Sandman comics and a splash of Lovecraft. The visuals and mythological references help get me in the mindspace for a game of magic and horror, and if my players find out I read HP, I can remind them that I also read Gaiman.

Star Wars prepwork always finds me re-reading my X-Wing novels. Michael Stackpole and Aaron Allston are excellent and the characters feel very much like an adventuring party.

Most of my campaigns are for D&D, and each book that I read beforehand influences the campaign as well. Fritz Lieber’s Swords Against Sorcery is excellent for imagery and encounter suggestions.

RA Salvatore is very good at pacing battles so that after several pages of swordplay, you are still interested in the outcome.

For comedy and absurdity, Terry Pratchett is frequently in my rotation, and his influence on my games is most often felt after fits of laughter at extremely late hours.

#3 Comment By Swordgleam On August 7, 2008 @ 7:12 pm

I can probably blame most of the absurdity in my games on growing up with Piers Anthony’s Xanth novels. I just can’t see medieval fantasy as grim and gritty. It’s always bright and full of strangeness. I try not to include nearly as many horrible puns as he does, though.

On the other hand, his Incarnations of Immortality series is a lot more serious, and really makes me want to run a modern fantasy game in that sort of setting. To summarize, “No one is sure which would cause more damage: a ranking demon of Hell released on earth, or a computer malfunction leading to the detonation of most of the world’s nuclear weapons.” I like the idea of magic and technology being equally useful, and equally dangerous.

I can’t say that any other books I’ve read have had nearly as much of an impact on my style. I do enjoy Tamora Pierce’s work quite a bit.

#4 Comment By Matthew J. Neagley On August 8, 2008 @ 7:47 am

Here’s a lending library for everyone:

Sci-fi.com used to have a sci-fi story archive. It officially went off-line on June 15th 2007, but oddly enough it merely got de-linked from the main site. The archive page is still there if you know where to look. Bookmark it and get reading. You never know when it’ll ACTUALLY disappear.

#5 Comment By penguin133 On August 8, 2008 @ 9:20 am

You have a parallel reading ethic to mine, Troy. I absolutely swear by Terry Pratchett, the light absurdity of his books and the inclusion of “real life”(?) elements renders them hilarious. If you want Fantasy/Wierd but more logical than Paranoia, and a little of everything, I cannot recommend too highly Robert Rankin, the Spike Milligan of Fantasy writers, wear a seatbelt when reading as you will laugh hard enough to fall off your perch! I hasten to add that he is also a mine of crazy ideas possibilities!
For Fantasy inspiration David Gemmell is the greatest; tragically fairly recently died, but for exploration of the Fighter character there is/was none better, ever. Piers Anthony is not a favourite – don’t shoot! – but I loved his Blue Adept stories, the idea of Parallel worlds of SF and Fantasy was irresistible. Incarnations is also good; another author who impinges – or impacts – Fantasy onto the real world and vice versa is Neil Gaiman.
Games can stimulate thinking for games, for Shadowrun try the after-the-Damp-Squib-war world of Steve Jackson’s Car Wars, weaving in a lot of strangeness for the magic, which should give the thugs with the heavy guns pause for thought!
Swordgleam, I like your idea of a Modern Fantasy game,with superscience and Magic being equally hazardous. Palladium’s Beyond the Supernatural and Dark Conspiracy both had that feel in spades? What about a game where Something Nasty is trying to muscle in and both Magic and Tech are needed to combat it? Perhaps even Psi. What if there were some Horror somewhere that ATE Magic and other “normal” energy, perhaps Human Psi and/or the Power of Faerie are the two Powers it cannot fight, or finds Alien? What could give a Magic-eater indigestion?