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Thread: D&D's Origins in Gothic Fiction
Tuesday, 1st November, 2011, 04:47 PM #1
D&D's Origins in Gothic Fiction
I haven't read much Gothic fiction -- just Dracula, really -- and the genre has gone profoundly out of fashion, but in its day it was extremely popular, and, as Michael Moorcock and James Cawthorne declared in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, the first Gothic novel, Otranto, influenced modern fantasy quite a bit.
This is what jumped out at me though:
The prevalence of castles in the literature was no accident, nor was the frequency with which they were built on the iceberg principle, with nine-tenths of their structure consisting of subterranean vaults. These spectre-infested spaces were rooted in the fantasies of an architect, Giovanni Piranesi. A revised edition of his Carceri d’Invenzione appeared in 1761, featuring a series of drawings of prison interiors conceived on a titanic and overpowering scale.Welcome to Blackmoor. (Ravenloft came much later, of course, and reintroduced a lot of Gothic elements quite explicitly.)
Last edited by mmadsen; Wednesday, 2nd November, 2011 at 03:06 AM.
Tuesday, 1st November, 2011, 07:29 PM #2
Thaumaturgist (Lvl 9)
Wednesday, 2nd November, 2011, 11:27 AM #3
Enchanter (Lvl 12)
Now you mention it, I've played quite a few sessions that felt like Sheridan LeFanu's Uncle Silas or Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey.What do we say to the God of Death?
Wednesday, 2nd November, 2011, 12:09 PM #4
Magsman (Lvl 14)
Wednesday, 2nd November, 2011, 04:04 PM #5
Thursday, 3rd November, 2011, 05:55 AM #6
Lama (Lvl 13)
I think you're right in that there is a large part of the original and especially later versions directly inspired by Gothic Fantasy, however, I would say that the original concept is much less inspired by Gothic Fantasy and much more by Historical or Just Plain Fantasy.
For instance I find the writing of Fritz Leiber to be almost a verbatim translation of the thief and fighter for OD&D. I would say that the first campaign worlds were probably more inspired by Gothic Fantasy than the game as a whole. But I get where you're going.Headmaster of Metal School
"I may be unconscious, but at least I still look good!" - - Me (at the Halfling Musketeers game GenCon '06)
On one hand, taking away their weapons is a dead giveaway that they will need them. On the other hand, by the time conflict starts the players will already have opened the rulebooks and found the parts that deal with bare-handed combat, performing disarm moves, and using improvised weapons. Players may blunder through dialog with shocking ineptitude, forget the name of the country they are in, or get confused about which side they are on, but once it comes time to roll for initiative they all turn into Sun Tzu. - Shamus Young DM of the Rings
Monday, 17th September, 2012, 07:45 PM #7
I'm thinking I should try to read Otranto by Halloween.
Monday, 17th September, 2012, 10:33 PM #8
Scout (Lvl 6)
Tuesday, 18th September, 2012, 02:13 PM #9
By the way, Cawthorn and Moorcock's list starts with Gulliver's Travels and then continues with a number of Gothic works: The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, The Monk, Frankenstein, and Melmoth the Wanderer.
Tuesday, 18th September, 2012, 05:47 PM #10
Magsman (Lvl 14)
Most of which are nice to know from a context to the appearance of modern fantasy as we know it, but I wouldn't really call them fantasy novels as we know them, and kind of take exception to their inclusion myself, actually.
Vathek was hugely inspirational to the "Three Musketeers" of the Weird Tales; so much so that Lovecraft's The DreamQuest of Unknown Kadath is sometimes referred to as a pastiche of it. Clark Ashton Smith and Robert E. Howard were also big fans. Especially CAS.
But I wouldn't call it a fantasy novel. It's fantastic, in the sense that it's full of unbelievable things happening, but it doesn't really follow many (if any) of the trops and conventions associated with fantasy as a modern genre that we know and love.Spoiler:
"I realize that I am generalizing here, but, as is often the case when I generalize, I don't care." Dave Barry
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