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D&D General Was The Witcher Inspired by an AD&D Campaign?

We previously discussed how The Witcher may have been inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, concluding that although author Andrzej Sapkowski may have seen a tabletop role-playing game, he never played a RPG. We now know that's untrue. Why? Because Sapkowski wrote one.

We previously discussed how The Witcher may have been inspired by a role-playing game but concluded that, according to author Andrzej Sapkowski's own words, he didn't have that much familiarity with tabletop RPGs because he claimed he never played them. We now know that's untrue. Why? Because Sapkowski wrote one.

oko_yrrhedesa.jpg

He “Doesn't Play Games”

Sapkowski's Witcher franchise has grown exponentially thanks to the popularity of the books in Europe, followed up by the CD Projekt Red video game series, and most recently the Netflix series. Because of the video games' popularity, they inevitably come up in interviews with the author. The io9 interview was no different. When asked to compare the show to the video game, Sapkowski replied:
I cannot compare anything to video games, because I have never played any. Since I was a kid I haven’t played any games—with a possible exception of bridge and poker. Video games are simply not for me, I prefer books as entertainment. Anyway, in my opinion TV series and video games—any of them—cannot be compared. They are too different in approach, making—and objective. You cannot compare spaghetti carbonara with a bicycle. Even though both have advantages and disadvantages.
So there we have it—Sapkowski never played any games, video games or otherwise (with the possible exception of bridge and poker). Except there was a tabletop role-playing game based on The Witcher, which in turn came from a poorly received movie.

“There Was Only One Tabletop RPG”

In another interview, Sapkowski was asked about the several role-playing games ("a few") that were created based on the books and what he thought about them:
"A few" - this is an obvious exaggeration, there was only one game, one system. I studied the problem of games, wrote a book about role-playing games, understand them well enough, even know the interesting Russian system "The Age of Aquarius", I received a book from the authors of this system as a gift. I myself, however, do not play role playing games. I have no time.
The RPG referenced is Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni (The Witcher: A Game of Imagination) that was published by MAG in 2001. Sapkowski casually references that he wrote his own book about role-playing games, which is something of an understatement.

Actually, He DID Play RPGs

When asked in a different interview if he ever played RPGs, Sapkowski responded:
A little. I played "Steve Jackson" with friends. A simple and generally available system in which conventional hexahedral bones were used. There is no need to study - it was childishly simple, you sit down and play.
We’ll come back to the question of what he meant by “Steve Jackson” in a bit. In the same interview, Sapkowski confessed he is familiar with D&D, but not the new system licensed to R. Talsorian Games:
I'm familiar only with the classic RPG: AD&D, D&D, Warhammer and all. The rest I know only by name.
There's a reason Sapkowski is familiar with D&D. In that same interview he explains:
And I knew what RPG was, because I encountered them abroad. In Lodz there was a strong band that played in AD & D. I had contact with them, and then I decided to write a textbook that was intended for people who are not able to go to America and buy it for a hundred dollars.
Sapkowski studied economics at the University of Lodz before turning to writing. He would reference AD&D again in another interview:
Sometimes it can be difficult for me to convince people that my books are not ADD (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons) and that I do not have a notebook in my box that stores character characteristics, biographies from birth to death, maps, histories and religions. If something is not said about a figure in the book, then it should be so. I do not have a single sheet on which the name of a hero would be written, and then: I was born then and there, I attended a parochial school in X, from which I was forcibly expelled by the teacher ... No, I really do not take notes like that. I repeat: if there is no information about a character in the book, then the answer is very simple: this is how it's conceived. And if the reader is not satisfied with this, this is his problem, not mine. I have said on this subject all that the reader needs to know. Of course, if someone wants to rework my book for RPG games, he has the right to give each character special characteristics: the color of the hair, the eye or whatever his darling wants, but I'm not interested in that anymore.
Considering the signs of D&D-isms in The Witcher Netflix series (chromatic dragons; blue-skinned doppelgangers; characters named by their classes like “bard” and “druid”; infectious ghouls; the use of the term "halflings" and "ents"; and gnomes, dwarves, elves, half-elves, and humans all in one setting), it seems likely that Sapkowski played in an AD&D campaign at university and was inspired by that game to write The Witcher.

It's worth noting that Sapkowksi mentioned he wasn't "interested in that anymore," implying he was interested in it once. And he most certainly was interested in role-playing games, because he created one.

He Wrote His Own RPG System

Sapkowski wrote a 300-page role-playing game titled Oko Yrrhedesa (The Eye of Yrrhedes), published in 1995:
‘The Eye of Yrrhedes’ is a fictional game designed for those who so far have had no contact with this type of entertainment. Role-playing game is a combination of theater, happenings and literature. The players act as great characters and take part in adventures in imaginary lands. Leader of the game (called the Game Master) is constantly creating reality, and the participants decide on their actions. This is a game of imagination.
The Eye of Yrrhedes is not just a scholarly work about role-playing games. It's also a self-contained game system (which is why the interviewer above mentioned "several" role-playing games). In another interview, Sapkowski explained why he wrote it:
This is a book, or rather a collection of articles that should explain what RPG is, since at that time nobody knew anything about RPG. I remember times when on fantastic conventions, three people played some games (not the same as at the present time, occupying entire gyms). They sat quietly in the corner and played. All the others looked at them in surprise, not knowing what was happening ... People were forced to create their own systems and adventures for themselves. "Oko Yrrhedesa" was written for these people. Unfortunately, the book was published too late, by that time everyone had already played RPGs.
There are hints that Sapkowski's motivation to write The Eye of Yrrhedes was in reaction to solo gamebooks. His mention of Steve Jackson could be a reference to GURPS authored by the American author Steve Jackson Games, or to the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks produced by European author Steve Jackson. Given that complexity of GURPS and Spakowski was in Europe, it seems more likely he encountered the European game--and possibly the game designer himself:
This year, in England, I met a kind who makes roleplaying games in books. Something along the lines: "Do that and go to page 12". He told me that, for him, it was like writing a lot of books at the same time. I told him that, for me, that was like writing no book at all. You can't say that is writing a book because when you write a book you have to know how to start and how to finish it. Writing something like "If you kill this orc then go to page 340" is not the correct way to do it. It is not writing, it isn't literature in any way.
When an interviewer asked about how magic worked in the world of the Witcher, Sapkowski had this to say:
I do not have the slightest idea, because I write books, not RPG textbooks. The story never required such a feat from Yennefer, so I did not have to worry about it.
The Eye of Yrrhedes contains several nuggets of information about what would become The Witcher universe, including stats for Yennefer.

Why Disavow RPGs?

It’s clear that Sapkowski’s position on gaming and how it influenced his books has soured over time, and it might have something to do with the video game series.

Back in the early 2000s, Sapkowski sold the rights to The Witcher to CD Project Red. Sapkowski had the option of obtaining a percentage of the profits, but, believing there was no future in video games, he opted instead to sell the rights for just 35,000 Polish złoty (roughly £7,250 or over $9,000). Realizing his mistake, Sapkowski sued the video game company for £12.4m ($16.1m / €14m). CD Projekt Red refused to pay. The two parties later settled for an undisclosed amount that was certainly lower than what Sapkowski asked for.

In addition to the loss of revenue, Sapkowski came to see the video game franchise as infringing on his fiction line’s success:
I wrote the first Witcher story 30 years ago. When I come to my author meetings, there's no one in the audience close to my age. I am 69. There's no one. Kids everywhere. How are some of them supposed to know—especially in Germany, Spain or the US—that my books are not game related? That I'm not writing books based on games? They may not know that, and CDPR bravely conceals the game's origins. It's written in fine print, you need a microscope to see it, that the game is 'based on' [my books].
In light of Sapkowski’s experience with AD&D, the many D&Disms scattered throughout the series, and the fact the he wrote his own RPG ... it seems The Witcher was definitely influenced by a game. It just happened to be a tabletop game instead.
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca


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I was thinking more in terms of cuture and attitudes.
This is in my line. Remember that in Poland Sapkowski is some sort of mass phenomena. Something like Tolkien was in terms of revamping a national corpus of mythology. To refuse influences from something non polish and recent like RPGs is understandable. And also consider that european culture establishment is very sensible about high and low brow collocation and this is even more true for eastern europe countries were the approach is more conservative in general.
 


MGibster

Legend
Has Wikipedia become ok to quote now? My college professors always warned students not to use it for anything worth noting or source since just about anyone with an opinion on a subject can edit something. The article does come across to me as the author kind of wanting to say it was something he created with little outside influence...just my opinion.

As much as I like ENWorld, this is not an academic institution and as such is not beholden to the same standards as a university. Wikipedia actually has a lot of great articles serving as introductions to a myriad of topics and even includes cites for those who wish to dig deeper. Wikipedia is an excellent source of information so long as it's properly used.
 

Mournblade94

Adventurer
As much as I like ENWorld, this is not an academic institution and as such is not beholden to the same standards as a university. Wikipedia actually has a lot of great articles serving as introductions to a myriad of topics and even includes cites for those who wish to dig deeper. Wikipedia is an excellent source of information so long as it's properly used.

I had a college professeur use wikipedia to teach a class on RNA complexes. Granted he WROTE the page, but still.
 

TheSword

Legend
This argument is a little bit reductive. Gold dragons and blue Dopplers? Can we make a difference between influenced by and significantly influenced by.

We all know that different people share different parts of their lives with different people at different times.

I think you have demonstrated that he has heard of RPGs and specifically D&D and Warhammer at some point in his life. (Love that Warhammer is his alternative 👍). But there’s a big leap from that to saying the game was significantly influenced by.

Also remember fondly the fighting fantasy series taken out from the library!!!
 

JeffB

Legend
Also remember fondly the fighting fantasy series taken out from the library!!!

I'd imagine these, as well as Sorcery! had a large impact upon people of a certain age and likely more-so in Europe than D&D did.

I seem to remember different colored dragons in the FF books and/or Sorcery!
 

tetrasodium

Legend
Supporter
Epic
Having read the first couple books(practically loosely connected short story collections)... I wouldn't say that blue skin was the take away on the doppel he encountered (I think it was an unhealthy grey or brown but again not the main thing, it wasn't described like a d&d doppelganger). The dragon(s) he met were not very much like traditional d&d dragons but you could say they beat some resemblance to ebberon's dragons if only because they didn't her a very deep exploration and because dragons of eberron is so packed with stuff about dragons of other settings
 

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