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Nerd Watching: War of the Fantasy Worlds!

Written by Nicholas - Published on June 17, 2009

Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.

Free Stuff!

Just giving you folks a heads up, Saturday, June 20th is Free RPG Day! Head on over to your local gaming store and pick up some free stuff. While you’re at it, support the store and buy a few things too. WotC is giving away an Eberron aventure and tile bundle. Many other fine companies are also participating, you can find the full list on the website.

Expy the dragon’s hot link of the week:

I love finding tools to make my game better. Digital tools are no exception and are frequently the ones I find these days. If you’re like me and DM with a laptop at your side, you should check out Softrope. Softrope is an sound mixer designed for dungeon masters. It features background noises for stormy weather or dank dungeons, as well as an array of sound effects like growls, lightning and screams. They are currently looking for beta testers for the program, so check it out!

Land Where the Warforged Roam

Speaking of Eberron, The Eberron Player’s Guide releases this week and the Campaign Guide comes out next month. I’ve seen a lot of excited people on twitter and around the community. I must say, I just don’t feel it. I make my own campaign worlds, always have. It actually seems like less work to me to make up my own. If the world exists in my head then I don’t need to remember someone else’s histories or maps. I remember what I’ve made and what I haven’t and if there’s something I don’t know off-hand I can make an easy call based on the feel of the world. I think that crafting your own worlds also lets the players take a more active role in shaping the landscape and history surrounding their character’s. I look forward to the Eberron Player’s Guide, but only so that I can dissect it and take out the bits that interest me. With that attitude, the campaign settings which interest me that most are the ones that drift fartherest from traditional high fantasy. I don’t really care about the differences between Greyhawk and Forgotten Realms, but Ravenloft and Planescape are much more unique and fascinating to me.

So how do you feel, readers? Homebrew or pre-made?

They’re Putting Stories on Paper Now?

Part of the reason I don’t care about these premade worlds is because I don’t read franchise fiction or really any fantasy novels. I don’t have favorite heroes having grand adventures in the Forgotten Realms and so I never develop a connection to that world. I don’t read them because of a few terrible books. My view of fantasy novels is quite similar to Penny Arcade’s brilliant storyline “Songs of Sorcelation“. It occurs to me, they aren’t parodying all fantasy novels, only the bad ones. I’m being unfair to a huge genre of literature and I feel that I should correct it, but I don’t know where to begin. Luckily I have thousands of people reading this to set me on the right path. What are the good fantasy novels? What is the best one for a beginner to start off on?

Crafting Wars in a World Designed for That Purpose

I’m really risking a riot this week. First speak ill of beloved fantasy worlds and novels, now I bring up World of Warcraft. There are some very vocal members of the gaming community who loathe the game. There are others who loathe all MMOs. But there are some who can enjoy a rich roleplay experience and still enjoy a much less intellectual video game. I am one of them. I play World of Warcraft and I’d love to play with you. I’m trying to gauge reader interest in starting a Dungeon Mastering guild in WoW. If we can get enough people together we’ll pick a server, start a guild and go on bloody adventures together in the name of Expy!

I’m really sending out the call for comments this week! Let us know:

Do you play in pre-made worlds or homebrew? What is your favorite pre-made?

What are the best fantasy novels? Where should a beginner start?

Do you play WoW? Would you like to go forth in Expy’s name?

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Nicholas is the columnist in charge of Nerd Watching and part-time Expy wrangler. He also works as the community manager, so keep an eye out for him on RPG blogs and forums.



28 Responses to “Nerd Watching: War of the Fantasy Worlds!”
  1. Mathew_Freeman says:

    I’d recommend the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy by Guy Gavriel Kay. Three fairly short books that I’ve read other and other again, drawing on many different sources for inspiration.

  2. Keith says:

    I haven’t read many novels myself, but of the few I have read, I dare say some of the simplest are still the best. Like the Chronicles of Prydian series. Yeah, it’s middle reader stuff, but if you want a good launching pad for fantasy novels that isn’t Tolkien, that’d be a great place to start.

    As for homebrew, I’m always working on my own, and I’d prefer homebrew for the reasons you also claim, but of the prefab, I think I like Eberron best because it incorporates 90% of the aspects I’d put in a homebrew game, anyway. I’m not a big fan of politics in RPGs, at least not as deep as Eberron, so I usually just skip that part of it. But I think the magic-tech and landscapes of Eberron as well as the history are just wonderful. Fun to read, fun to play in.

    As far as WoW, no. I used to play it, but can’t keep up. I prefer the RP aspect, and all my friends are min-maxers. I just don’t care enough to number crunch. I played it for the atmosphere. I do find that I miss it from time to time. It’s a very rich world. But just as with anything, a game is only what you make of it. Calling it dumbded down is just a cop-out from people who are afraid they’ll actually enjoy it.

  3. Delf says:

    I don’t mind Forgotten Realms, though I haven’t checked out 4e’s version, yet. I make my own worlds. As for books, obviously there’s LOTR. The Hobbit’s a nice light read. Right now I’m a big fan of Steve Erikson’s “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series, along with his partner, Ian Esslemont’s “Night of Knives” set in the same world. Also, George Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” series rocks, although he’s taking for-bloody-ever to finish book 5.
    Never got into WOW. Tried my bro’s out for a bit. It was fun, but I have too many ways to waste my time as it is.

  4. Metal_Tree says:

    oh, I would definitely recommend Dragon Lance. The setting and characters are very vibrant. I’d recommend only reading:

    chronicles trilogy
    dragons of the summer flame
    legends trilogy

    those are the best IMO.

  5. Keith says:

    Ooh, yeah, it’s been so long since I read them, I forgot about Dragonlance. I only read the Meetings series, but that was definitely good.
    I would second that recommendation.
    Most of the guys in my gaming group have read most of the Dragonlance stuff, too and would highly recommend.

  6. Hunter Rose says:

    Since it hasn’t been mentioned yet, I’ve always been partial to Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. The first three books, at least, were very good and set you up for a continent at war in a believable fashion.

  7. kaeosdad says:


    I’d join a guild, but if I started playing wow again my wife would leave me…

  8. Nathan says:

    I would totally be interested in a Dungeon Mastering guild in WoW!

    And I’m very excited about Eberron. I like all the fluffy geography and politics just for myself. I only actually use Eberron material for my own homebrew campaigns. I agree, it’s much easier to keep up your own made up world than some pre-existing thing.

  9. Martin Goodman says:

    I have done both. I designed my own game worlds and used store-bought worlds. I work full time, so time is important. I use what’s handy.

    Books…I love books.
    Try the Talons of the Hawk series by Ray Feist.
    Try some of the Old stuff by Lynn Abbey, mainly the Sanctuary Series.

    Good Luck and good reading.

  10. Siliaris says:

    I play wow for exploration/fantasy purposes. I’d happily make a new character on a realm for a dungeon mastering guild!

  11. ZedZed77 says:

    Definitely check out “Wizard of Earthsea” by Ursula K. LeGuin.

    “Elric of Melnibone” is weird, but good.

    Try to get “The Complete Chronicles of Conan”, or any individual Conan stories you can find. (“Beyond the Black River” is a good one.)

    And, while it’s not a novel, reading my old copy of Bullfinch’s mythology really helps me when coming up with DnD ideas (Gygax and Tolkien both borrowed pretty heavily from Norse mythology).

  12. Charles D. Shell says:

    A bold challenge to request fantasy reading material. (You do realize you’ll be inundated?)

    My advice? See if you can find a copy of the first edition of the D&D DMG. There’s a reading list put in the back by Gygax & Arneson. (Which will take some time to find because of the abysmal index.)

    Start with the Amber series by Roger Zelazny. It’s presently out of print but not hard to find via used book stores or Abebooks.com. Absolute best non-Tolkien fantasy series.

    And plenty more where that came from: Conan series by Robert E. Howard, Poul Anderson’s fantasy books, etc. Check out the DMG list; you won’t be disappointed.

  13. kalabron says:

    Pick Kirin Tor server for the guild! It is an RP server. I have 2 others that would LOVE to join the guild.

  14. Mike E. says:

    I would be down with joining a guild in the name of Expy. I play on doomhammer, but wouldn’t mind joining another realm as well for that… I’m a casual gamer on wow. Play when I get the chance.

    Not to get off topic, but I can’t wait for Star Wars: The Old Republic to come out because it is supposed to have an interactive story line that you can shape and make choices in! I’m really excited about that aspect because that is something that ALL MMO’s have lacked… We’ll see though.

    Keep me posted on the wow guild!

  15. Nicholas says:

    @WoW Folks: Well I have some interest. This is a pet project for me so I’m going to try taking it to email. If you are interested in the WoW guild, email me at nicholas@dungeonmastering.com. I’m looking for information like do you prefer Alliance or Horde and PvP or PvE? Obviously, most people will need to start new characters on a new server. If you are on a good server already and would be willing to support the guild as it starts out (pay for the character and tabard and such), let me know that. I’ll put this stuff in the next Nerd Watching, but I don’t want to overwhelm all the non-WoW players. Remember, email me at nicholas@dungeonmastering.com!

    @Book People: Whoa, thanks for all the recommendations guys. I have read some Conan stuff (I am also quite the fan of his contemporary H.P. Lovecraft), read a good deal of Tolkien (which I found very dry and well, dull on the story telling aspects. I do recall enjoying a few Dragonlance books when I was quite young. Several of you seem to vouch for their quality, so I think I shall start with them!

    @Campaign Setting Folks: Seems I’m far from alone in using homebrew settings and hacking up pre-mades to do it.

  16. ColoQ says:

    I most always do home brew. Pre-genned adventure worlds seem too constricting. You work with a cast of characters someone else likes, and then try to make them your own.. Yuck!

    Making your players part of your fantasy world is one of the best parts too! My world is littered with shrines to Fallen Heroes, whose character sheets now say “deceased” in red ink in my Filing Cabinet. The events of my past campaigns are now the history of my current ones. I even had one player take the time to build out a full family tree for several characters. I went ahead and added these things into my campaign world, and all of a sudden – it has a rich history a full Cast of characters, and more adventure hooks than I have time to deal with. Truly rewarding.

  17. JVD says:

    New poster here.

    The Wheel of Time novels are awesome, though a bit overly descriptive and a zillion plot lines to track. Still, it’s a shame that Jordan has passed and I look forward to the final book in the series, which will be printed by Brandon Sanderson.

    Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth novels are awesome and fast-paced, as are George Martin’s series (someone mentioned those).

    If you like lengthy epic novels, be sure to pick up Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series. Book one is “The Gunslinger” and, man, it is AMAZING!!

  18. Yax says:

    I’ll jump in and reactivate my wow account too.

    As for the homebrew vs. published settings. I’m all about homebrew, but am currently DMing a Forgotten Realms campaign.

  19. Nicholas says:

    The votes so far are leaning towards Alliance and a PvE server. Don’t forget to email me at nicholas@dungeonmastering.com and make yourself heard!

  20. Iain says:

    Homebrew all they way. Until 4e Dark Sun arrives possibly!

    For some real different Fantasy lit, well away from the beaten and well trodden paths of cheesiness, you should check out some of K J Parkers work.

    I’d particularly recommend the Scavenger story/trilogy.

    I wish fantasy publishers would stop making their writers do damn trilogies.

  21. Keith says:

    @lain, OMG I couldn’t agree more!
    Is there some kind of petition we could drum up to get them to stop?
    Is it not possible to just put out one story and then move on?

    Someone had mentioned the Dark Tower series, earlier. That’s another one my gaming group won’t shut up about. So, I guess I’d have to toss another recommendation out for that, as well.

  22. John says:

    It’s kind of funny that the topic of franchise fiction came up. I picked up two of the Ed Greenwood Presents: Waterdeep WotC releases, and they are actually pretty okay. I read Dragonlance and the OG Forgotten Realms novels when I was younger, but I eventually just moved on to reading just non-franchise Sci-Fi and Fantasy. The other day I began wondering if anyone still reads franchise fiction. People ahve to be since they are still publishing them… Some of the new stuff is okay, and they are quick to read; thus enjoyable :D.

    As for Pre-made vs. Homebrew… I love the Forgotten Realms, but I have been running a homebrew most recently. I am 50/50. What can I say? I grew up on FR.

  23. DRAX40K says:

    It’s low magic Fantasy but still gripping and moving, George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire Series! :D Probably some of my favorite books ever.

    As far as world creation I am with you. I too prefer homebrewed as opposed to canned, though I must admit I do like Ebberon and I also enjoyed Dark Sun back in the day. I am more the type to use the maps, some of the factions and just blow up time lines or realtionships and take things off on my own course.

    As far as WoW, I have punched my time card in for the last time and collected my severence for a much more profitable real world job. ;) LOL

  24. hobson1975 says:

    I’ve always loved Eberron and the new EPG is pretty good. I’d like more meat, but we already have TON of material to pull from in the old books. I like the pulp noir flavor to it. I usually add in a bit more steam punk type flavor when I’m running my campaigns.

    I would DEARLY love for Wizard’s to come out with a truly different world on the scale of Planescape, just something utterly out of this world. I’m not talking sci fi, but really out there fantasy (e.g. I’m thinking kind of the later Final Fantasy games).

    As to WoW, I laid off the crack back in the winter. I’d just gotten bored with it all.

  25. Consumer Unit 5012 says:

    If you’re still taking recommendations, allow me to put in one for Glen Cook’s _Black Company_ series. It’s an epic tale of a Chosen One trying to overthrow an evil overlord… told from the point of view of a company of mercenaries employed by said Overlord.

    Tanith Lee’s _Tales of the Flat Earth_ are quite good, and rather different from most fantasy–more like mythology, really.

  26. Nicholas says:

    @Consumer Unit 5012: Like mythology is an excellent selling point for me. I’ll add Tales of the Flat Earth to the list of things I need to check out.

  27. Otookee says:

    Well, I had a long list typed in and the blog ate it with an error message. So, second try… I’ll leave out stuff like Earthsea and Amber that have been mentioned by others.

    Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart

    Changer by Jane Lindskold

    Inda/The Fox/King’s Shield by Sherwood Smith

    Godstalk/Dark of the Moon/Seekers Mask by PC Hodgell

    The Waterborn/The Blackgod by J Gregory Keyes (also the Briar King series)

    The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper (also Seaward).

    Black Sun Rising/When true Night Falls/Crown of Shadows by CS Friedman

    The Wee Free Men/A Hat Full of Sky/Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

  28. Otookee says:

    And some more…

    The Door into Fire/The Door into Shadow/The Door into Starlight by Diane Duane

    The Black Gryphon trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon

    The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs

    The Complete Compleat Enchanter by L Sprague deCamp and Fletcher Pratt

    The Curse of Chalion/Paladin of Souls/The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold. Also the Sharing Knife series (and over in scifi, check out her Miles Vorkosigan series)

    Red Unicorn/GoldUnicorn/BlackUnicorn by Tanith Lee

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