D&D General Reassesing Robert E Howards influence on D&D +

I think it was D&D making a big number of them good and emphasizing a prankster aspect for things like sprites as their big interaction niche. Take a leprechaun or nymph and turn them evil and predatory and it could be more fearsome than a hag. Leprechaun at will polymorph any object is huge in 1e, nymph blindness is very strong mechanically.
Yeah, tone is definitely a huge factor in all this. I briefly touched on that with the Dryad -- they can effectively 'kill off' your character, but it is barely treated as a real threat. Also something that medieval people (who believed in this) would be terrified of charmed and taken away forever, but in the game it is treated as a neutral creature's boycrush action.

That's kind of what I was alluding to with mind-effecting abilities (and others associated with fey) somewhat poorly handled. I was recently re-listening to Overly Sarcastic Production's review of the god Pan, and was reminded that Mycenaean Greek Pan was terrifying -- he drove people mad (so much that his faithful might tear others to bits in their madness), or away in terror. That was scary to people. In D&D, not so much. At least not from things that look like cuddly woodland friends and are (as you point out) treated in-genre as vaguely-dangerous tricksters at worst. Also at least not when the same class of powers are held by things like madness-inducing gorilla-beetle hybrids listed as Chaotic Evil and noted for eating humans.
There is some interesting archaeological evidence for mass sacrificial burnings on Anglesey that backs up the Roman account of the battle.

My take on what the Roman historians wrote is the legions were terrified of druidic magic. The original "kill 'em before they can get their spells off".

To bring things back to the original topic, the Roman attitude to druids seems to resemble Conan's attitude to the spellcasters he comes across.
I had forgotten about Anglesey. Yes, that's pretty straightforward. Overall prevalence and what part of the tale was Roman propaganda vs. what we know was what I was thinking of, and this is a definitive instance.

As to the Roman attitudes, absolutely. They clearly had a strong negative reaction to the Druids and related culture (perhaps because of the bloody resistance to empyreal conquest), and (some amongst them) appeared to really believe both the exoticization and barbarization interpretations.
I really like Bernard Cornwell's take on druidic magic in his Warlord trilogy (his take on the Arthurian myths). Mostly psychological with enough ambiguity of circumstance to let the reader understand how the characters (or at least some of them) could believe.
I would love more tales where it is unclear if the special event was real, or just believed by the characters in-narrative.
 

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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
As to the Roman attitudes, absolutely. They clearly had a strong negative reaction to the Druids and related culture (perhaps because of the bloody resistance to empyreal conquest), and (some amongst them) appeared to really believe both the exoticization and barbarization interpretations.
I think they also had an understanding of breaking enemy morale. If you can shake the enemy's faith in their magic and gods or convince them that you have more such power, it's a concrete step toward winning a war.

I would love more tales where it is unclear if the special event was real, or just believed by the characters in-narrative.
Getting back to the thread topic, that's something I think Howard does a fair amount in Conan. There is obviously actual supernatural stuff in the stories too, but there's often an implication that human sorcerers are employing alchemical means secretly to create effects like fire.
 

Yora

Legend
When magic is real, is there really a difference?

Arcane, esoteric, and occult knowledge all refers to things that are assumed to be true, but known only to very few.
 

Clint_L

Hero
This. The barbarian class is a berserker.
It's not, though. I mean, unless you choose to play a berserker, which is a specific sub-class. Or battle-rager, which seems like a sub-class specifically designed for hardcore Warhammer fans.

Our party's barbarian went Path of the Ancestral Guardian. They couldn't be less like a berserker.
 

Clint_L

Hero
Looking at the big picture, I think it is obvious that D&D's setting is far more indebted to Tolkien than to Howard and similar sword and sorcery writers. But the episodic nature of Conan's adventures, and his ilk, is better suited to most D&D plots than is Tolkien's epic fantasy.
 
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Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
It's not, though. I mean, unless you choose to play a berserker, which is a specific sub-class. Or battle-rager, which seems like a sub-class specifically designed for hardcore Warhammer fans.

Our party's barbarian went Path of the Ancestral Guardian. They couldn't be less like a berserker.
I think the degree to which the Barbarian's signature feature of Rage has been made volitional and tweaked to avoid feel-bads is at the heart of the disagreement here. A WotC Barbarian is not a berserker inasmuch as they don't actually lose control of themselves and risk attacking friends in a blood mad frenzy. The de-coupling of Reckless Attack from Rage to make it optional from round to round whether you become easier to hit also makes the Rage less of a Berserk.
 

Voadam

Legend
I think the degree to which the Barbarian's signature feature of Rage has been made volitional and tweaked to avoid feel-bads is at the heart of the disagreement here. A WotC Barbarian is not a berserker inasmuch as they don't actually lose control of themselves and risk attacking friends in a blood mad frenzy. The de-coupling of Reckless Attack from Rage to make it optional from round to round whether you become easier to hit also makes the Rage less of a Berserk.
I think that leans the opposite, I think every barbarian being able to at will reckless attack makes them more berserker like as a class regardless of subclass. Attacking friends is not really a defining feature of berserker rage for me. Becoming a howling beast of an attacker is sufficient. Spirit powers just lean in a bit on the bear/wolf/boar cult aspect of historical/mythical berserker stuff.

I can see an argument though that an iconic berserker rage should be encounter long once triggered, not something that can be tactically switched on or off round to round.
 

Looking at the big picture, I think it is obvious that D&D's setting is far more indebted to Tolkien than to Howard and similar sword and sorcery writers. But the episodic nature of Conan's adventurers, and his ilk, is better suited to most D&D plots than is Tolkien's epic fantasy.
The typical D&D setting is more indebted to Tolkien, but the typical D&D adventure is more indebted to Howard.
 

Voadam

Legend
The typical D&D setting is more indebted to Tolkien, but the typical D&D adventure is more indebted to Howard.
Debatable on the setting aspect.

Lots of D&D settings are cultural kitchen sink ones which are fairly similar to the Hyborian world with its mix of Norse Vanirmen and Asgardians, Middle Eastern/Asian Afgulhi Turanians and Shemites, Egyptian Stygians, African Black Kingdoms, Celtic Cimmerians, etc. Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Birthright, and so forth match that multiple culture crossroads of fantasy historical analogues feel fairly well.

Tolkien has a little bit of that, with the Norse vikings turned horsemen Rohirrim and a bit of exotica for the easterners contrasting with the mostly English default people of Bree and the Gondor stuff. Tolkien's Middle Earth more though has distinct lands of orcs and elves and dwarves and halflings contrasted with human lands which matches a different aspect of many D&D settings.

If you just focus in on the Dales or Cormyr then FR feels more Tolkien, but if you have Thay's stygian sorcerers and mixes of Celtic/Arabic/Mesopotamian/East Asian/Central American/etc. fantasy historical analogues it can have a lot of Hyborian age type of feel.
 

pemerton

Legend
Debatable on the setting aspect.

Lots of D&D settings are cultural kitchen sink ones which are fairly similar to the Hyborian world with its mix of Norse Vanirmen and Asgardians, Middle Eastern/Asian Afgulhi Turanians and Shemites, Egyptian Stygians, African Black Kingdoms, Celtic Cimmerians, etc. Greyhawk, Forgotten Realms, Birthright, and so forth match that multiple culture crossroads of fantasy historical analogues feel fairly well.

Tolkien has a little bit of that, with the Norse vikings turned horsemen Rohirrim and a bit of exotica for the easterners contrasting with the mostly English default people of Bree and the Gondor stuff. Tolkien's Middle Earth more though has distinct lands of orcs and elves and dwarves and halflings contrasted with human lands which matches a different aspect of many D&D settings.

If you just focus in on the Dales or Cormyr then FR feels more Tolkien, but if you have Thay's stygian sorcerers and mixes of Celtic/Arabic/Mesopotamian/East Asian/Central American/etc. fantasy historical analogues it can have a lot of Hyborian age type of feel.
Yes. As I posted upthread,
Gygax's worldbuilding has strong REH elements - the WoG backstory is fallen empires and racialised migrations of peoples with barbarians and desert nomads a dime-a-dozen. It also has JRRT elements with the Kron Hills and Celene and so on.

Ultimately I put it closer to REH than JRRT because, just as REH's world was created for storytelling in - it's purely a vehicle, a bucket into which he can dip to find tropes - so WoG is purely for RPGing in - a bucket into which players an GM can dip to find tropes.
 

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