INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING
Inspiration for all the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a tad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerors [sic] and dauntless swordsmen.
— E. Gary Gygax, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979
The whole “Appendix N” thing has sort of blow up in the past few years among the OSR crowd. Sticking to tradition, I’m devoting this space to inspirational reading as well as useful reference works I’ve accumulated over the years. This will cover specific games/settings, but also cover more general resources for the fantasy, swashbuckling and horror genres.
The Game Master’s General Reference Library
A Quick Word about Name Books
Ok, let’s get something straight right off the bat. Yes, you can find plenty of character naming resources on the internet these days, from random generators to whole “history of the name” references. I use these too. But if you don’t have at least one big book of baby names sitting in your reference library, you’re doing yourself a disservice. The two books I’ve listed from my collection include some pretty esoteric resources, and are perhaps the most used pieces in my collection.
- The Cambridge Factfinder
- Deadly Doses: A Writer’s Guide to Poisons, Serita Stevens, Anne Klamer (1990)
- Encyclopedia of World Religions
- Gary Gygax’s Extraordinary Book of Names, Macolm Bowers (2004)
- Gary Gygax’s World Builder, with Dan Cross (2002)
- History’s Timeline: A 40,000 Year Chronology of Civilization, Jean Cooke, Ann Kramer, Theodore Rowland-Entwistle (1989)
- New York Public Library Desk Reference
- A Short History of the World, Alex Woolf (2008)
- Webster’s Word Menu. It’s not a dictionary, it’s not a thesaurus, it’s…something else.
- Writer’s Digest Character Naming Sourcebook, Sherrilyn Kenyon (1992)
- Atlas of Cursed Places: A Travel Guide to Dangerous and Frightful Destinations, Olivier Le Carrer (2015)
- Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures, Katharine Mary Briggs (1971)
Inspiration for Witch Hunter: The Invisible World
While the Inspirations section of the Witch Hunter core book is full of good sources, it’s also a bit dated. It remains unchanged from the original edition in 2008, so media, literature and pop culture have at least a good six year lead on it. This is my incomplete attempt to add to that list.
FILM AND TELEVISION
- Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter (1974)
- Dog Soliders (2002) In a sub-genre that consistently brings the suck, Dog Solider is one of the best and most consistently entertaining werewolf movies I’ve seen in the past 20 years.
- Penny Dreadful (2014-2015)
- Salem (2014-2015)
- Season of the Witch (2011)
- Solomon Kane (2009)
- Supernatural (2005-)
- Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (2012) Not a good movie by a long shot, but a very good example of how a cadre of witch hunters might operate, plus it’s just good enough that any GM worth his salt could turn it into a pretty decent scenario.
- The Witch (2015) Creepy. As. Hell.
- The Dresden Files, Jim Butcher (2000-2014) (Seriously, there are some 15 books, a couple of anthologies, graphic novels…it’s a big damn franchise!)
- The Swords of Albion Trilogy, Mark Chadbourne (2008-2012) (The Silver Skull, the Scar-Crow Men, the Devil’s Looking Glass)
- Thieftaker Chronicles, D.B. Jackson (2012-2015) (Thieftaker, Thieves’ Quarry, A Plunder of Souls, Dead Man’s Reach)
- Matthew Corbett Chronicles, Robert McCammon (2002-2014) (Speaks the Nightbird, Queen of Bedlam, Mister Slaughter, the Providence Rider, the River of Souls) This recommendation came straight from Henry Lopez, himself, who said it was a big piece of his inspiration for the Witch Hunter world.
Inspiration for 7th Sea
The following is pulled from a variety of sources and suggestions, not just my own reading. I’ve tried to include as many of the confirmed influences of the game (by John Wick, no less) as I can find. Note that any of the previously mentioned sources for Witch Hunter: The Invisible World will offer plenty for the GM who wants to explore the terrors of Eisen.
FILM AND TELEVISION
- Pirates of the Caribbean (Disney) (2003-2017) (Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, At World’s End, On Stranger Tides, Dead Men Tell No Tales)
- Cutthroat Island (Carolco Pictures) (1995)
- The Princess Bride (20th Century Fox) (1987)
- The Musketeers (BBC) (2014-2016)
- Black Sails (STARZ) (2014-2017)
- Dangerous Beauty (Warner Bros.) (1998) Based on the novel, An Honest Courtesan, the movie follows the life of a Courtesan in 16th century Venice. One of the original inspirations for Vodacce and the game.
- Restoration (Miramax) (1995)
- Le pacte des loups [Brotherhood of the Wolf] (2001) To quote John Wick: “After we saw it, we were screaming, ‘They read our game!!!’ (I know they didn’t really read our game, but it sure felt like it.)”
- The Mask of Zorro (TriStar Pictures) (1998)
- The Three Musketeers (20th Century Fox) (1973) Starring Oliver Reed, Charlton Heston, Raquel Welch, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Frank Finlay, Michael York, and Christopher Lee; regarded as one of the best translations for the screen. Also see its sequel, the Four Musketeers (1974).
- The Three Musketeers (Disney) (1993) People are going to disagree with this entry. However, Oliver Platt’s Porthos is the character almost every 7th Sea player aspires to be at one point or another. “This was a gift from the Queen of America.” “You’re right. Something red.” It may not be the most loyal translation to the screen, but DAMN it’s fun!
- Rob Roy (United Artists) (1995) A bit on the gritty side for 7th Sea, but the final duel between Liam Neeson and Tim Roth is worth watching.
- Hornblower (1998-2003) Eight episodes of pure magic. Robert Lindsay owns every scene he is in!
- The Sharpe series (1993-1995) Adapted from Bernard Cornwell’s novels.
- The Road to El Dorado (Dreamworks) (2000) Animated feature.
- Casanova (Touchstone) (2005)
- Captain Blood (Warner Bros.) (1935) An Errol Flynn classic.
- The Sea Hawk (Warner Bros.) (1940) Another Errol Flynn classic.
- TURN: Washington’s Spies (AMC) (2014-)
- Eru kazado [Le Chevalier D’Eon] (2006-) One for the anime fans.
- Cyrano de Bergerac (1990)
- Roxanne (1987) For those who can’t be bothered by French or subtitles, or just want the extra comic punch of Steve Martin, this film was based on Cyrano de Bergerac and is hilarious in its own right.
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (20th Century Fox) (2003)
- Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Warner Bros.) (1991)
- Man in the Iron Mask (United Artists) (1998)
- Muppet Treasure Island (Disney) (1996) In my defense, Tim Curry plays the bad guy and Rob Justice listed it as a reference.
- Jack of All Trades (2000) It’s hard to believe that this 17th Century Bruce Campbell romp only lasted 2 seasons.
- Game of Thrones (HBO) (2011-)
- Downton Abbey (2010-2015)
- Elizabeth (1998) Also see 2007’s Elizabeth: the Golden Age; the third installment in the trilogy is forthcoming.
- The Crown (Netflix) (2016-) Follows the ascension of Queen Victoria; out of period but no less useful as a window into the politics of the royal court.
- The D’Artagnan Romances, Alexander Dumas (1844-1850) (The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, The Man in the Iron Mask) Because this list wouldn’t be credible without them.
- The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas (1844)
- The Greatcoats, Sebastien De Castell (2014-2017) (Traitor’s Blade, Knight’s Shadow, Saint’s Blood, Tyrant’s Throne)
- The Khaavren Romances, Steven Brust (The Phoenix Guards, Five Hundred Years After, The Paths of the Dead)
- Liveship Traders, Robin Hobb (Ship of Magic, The Mad Ship, Ship of Destiny)
- On Stranger Tides, Tim Powers (1987)
- The Lions of Al-Rassan, Guy Gavriel Kay (1995) With the diversification of religion and expansion of the Crescent Empire, this book becomes even more useful as a source of inspiration for how those cultures come together in Castille.
- The Alchemist, Dave Duncan (2007-2009) (The Alchemist’s Apprentice, The Alchemist’s Code, The Alchemist’s Pursuit) Recommended Reading for Vodacce adventures.
- The Witcher, Andrzej Sapkowski (1994-1999) (Blood of Elves, Time of Contempt, Baptism of Fire, The Tower of Swallows, Lady of the Lake) Noted inspiration for the Eisen in 7th Sea 2nd edition.
- Riverside, Ellen Kushner (1987-2010) (Swordspoint, The Fall of the Kings, The Privilege of the Sword, The Man with the Knives)
- The Cardinal’s Blades, Pierre Pevel (2007-2010) (The Cardinal’s Blades, The Alchemist in the Shadows, The Dragon Arcana)
- The Princess Bride, William Goldman (1973) More of a spoof on the genre, included here in connection to the film.
- The Powder Mage, Brian McClellan (2013-) The setting is vaguely Eastern European and despite its wildly divergent magic is full of swashbuckling overtones, making it a great source for Sarmatian based games.
- The Gentlemen Bastards, Scott Lynch (2006-) (The Lies of Locke Lamora, Red Seas Under Red Skies, The Republic of Thieves, The Thorn of Emberlain) Red Seas Under Red Skies is of particular note here.
- Las aventuras del capitán Alatriste [The Adventures of Captain Alatriste], Arturo Pérez-Reverte (1996-2011) (Captain Alatriste, The Purity of Blood, The Sun over Breda, etc.) The episodic tales of a Spanish soldier and swordsman. Personally, I found these to be a very dry read but they definitely belong on this list.
- The Fencing Master, Arturo Pérez-Reverte (2004)
- The Black Corsair, Emilio Salgari (2011) Part of the I corsari delle Antille series, though I’m not sure all of them have been translated into English.
- The Scarlet Pimpernel, Emmuska Orczy (1905-1940)
- Horatio Hornblower, C.S. Forester (1950-1957)
- Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
- The Black Arrow: A Tale of Two Roses, Robert Louis Stevenson (1888)
- The Sea Hawk, Rafael Sabatini (1915)
- Scaramouche, Rafael Sabatini (1921)
- The Odyssey of Captain Blood, Rafael Sabatini (1922-1936) (Captain Blood, Captain Blood Returns, The Fortunes of Captain Blood)
- The Savage Tales of Solomon Kane, Robert E. Howard (2004) A collection of short stories, poems, excerpts, and fragments following the dour puritan hero. Must reading for Eisen (and, perhaps, Ifri).
- Aubery & Maturin series, Patrick O’Brian (1969-2014) Generally regarded as a master class in naval storytelling.
- The Pirate Primer: Mastering the Language of Swashbucklers & Rogues, George Choundas (2007)
- Isaac Newton: the Last Sorcerer, Michael White (1999)
- Phantom Islands of the Atlantic: The Legends of Seven Lands That Never Were, Donald Johnson (1998)
- The Poxy Boggards (Up and Away, Hauling for Home)
- The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mad Jenny, The Devil and the Knight)
- The Dreadnoughts (Sally Brown, Eliza Lee, Old Maul, Randy Dandy Oh, Roll the Woodpile Down, The Cruel Wars)
- The Corsairs (1998-2005)
7th Sea: Khitai
During the Kickstarter campaign for 7th Sea: Khitai, JWP posted a list of a sampling of background research material that the developers have been using to inform the setting. This list has been reproduced here as is for anyone who would like to investigate the material themselves.
- Rāmāyaṇa. Vālmīki.
- Mahābhārata. Vyāsa.
- Zhuāngzǐ. Zhuāng Zhōu.
- Gītā Govinda. Jayadeva.
- Kumārasaṃbhavam. Kālidāsa.
- Abhijñānashākuntala. Kālidāsa.
- Dàodéjīng. Lǎozǐ.
- Hán Fēizǐ.
- The Analects. Confucius.
- The Lotus Sūtra (Saddharmapuṇḍarīka Sūtra).
- The Pillow Book (Makura no Sōshi). Sei Shōnagon.
- Vimalakīrti Nirdeśa Sūtra.
- The Unfettered Mind (Fudōchi Shinmyōroku). Takuan Sōhō.
- The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari).
- Samurai Invasion. Stephen Turnbull.
- The Shaolin Monastery. Meir Shahar.
- Records of the Grand Historian (Tàishǐgōng shū). Sīmǎ Qiān.
- When Buddhists Attack. Jeffrey K Mann.
- The Secret History of the Mongols.
- The Lone Samurai. William Scott Wilson.
- Philippine Folk Literature: The Myths. Damiana L Eugenio.
MILITARY SCIENCE AND MARTIAL ARTS
- The Art of War. Sǔnzǐ.
- Essence of Ninjutsu. Hatsumi Masaaki.
- Way of the Ninja: Secret Techniques. Hatsumi Masaaki.
- Warring States Stealth Methodology Overview (Sengoku Ninpō Zukan). Hatsumi Masaaki.
- Comprehensive Illustrated Martial Arts Manual (Muye Dobo Tongji). I Deokmu, Bak Jega, and Baek Dongsu.
- The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin no Sho). Miyamoto Musashi.
- The Life-Giving Sword (Heihō kadensho). Yagyū Munenori.
- Military history manuals from Osprey Publishing.
- The Shàolín Grandmasters’ Text. Order of Shàolín Chán.
- Old Frame Chen Family Taijiquan. Mark Chén.
- The Demon’s Sermon on the Martial Arts. Niwa Jurozaemon Tadaaki.
- Investiture of the Gods (Fēngshén Yǎnyì). Xǔ Zhōnglín.
- The Tale of Genji (Genji monogatari). Lady Murasaki.
- Journey to the West (Xī yóu jì). Wú Chéng’ēn.
- Water Margin (Shuǐhǔ zhuàn). Shī Nài’ān.
- Musashi (Miyamoto Musashi). Yoshikawa Eiji.
- The Years of Rice and Salt. Kim Stanley Robinson.