During my formative years my sole experience of the Fantasy genre was Tolkien. I loved The Hobbit with a passion but by the end of The Lord of the Rings I was heartily sick of elves and the seemingly interchangeable Aramir and Borogorn. As a result I’ve assiduously avoided playing IF in the Fantasy genre for most of my life. All this has changed! Recently I stumbled upon the work of Robert E. Howard and Clark Ashton Smith, which have convinced me that Fantasy can be fast, fun, lurid and really quite weird. So my question is, can anyone recommend any fantasy IF that leans more in the direction of Weird Tales than so called high fantasy? I mean no disrespect to the wonderful Mr. Tolkien or his fans!
I’m not very familiar with Robert E. Howard or Clark Ashton Smith, but the description “fast, fun, lurid and really quite weird” suggests to me that maybe you want this:
It is extremely entertaining and does not take itself remotely seriously.
Hint: Borogorn dies.
My Kerkerkruip takes the main enemy’s name and description straight from a Clark Ashton Smith story, but it might not be what you are looking for. Emily’s suggestion is pretty spot on: there’s an obvious pulp influence on Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom. Peter Nepstad’s games The Ebb and Flow of the Tide and The Journey of the King are based on stories by Lord Dunsany, who was one of Smith’s main influences. (And unlike Smith, Dunsany knows the difference between flowery style and purple prose.) Finally, we should not forget to mention Tor Andersson’s The Tower of the Elephant, which is an implementation of a Howard story.
(By the way, if you are interested in non-Tolkienian fantasy literature, I can recommend James Branch Cabell, John Crowley, Mervyn Peake, Lord Dunsany, E. R. Eddison, David Lindsay, M. John Harrison and R. A. Lafferty. And of course you can’t go wrong with modern “literary” fantasist like Borges and Calvino, or the great classic fantasists like Ludovico Ariosto. In fact, I cannot recommend Ariosto enough.)
You may have already played it, but Eric Mayer’s “Doomed Xycanthus” is a pastiche of Clark Ashton Smith and H.P. Lovecraft. It is written in ADRIFT 4.
Most importantly, the immortal stylings of Jim Theis.
Not to mention one of Tolkien’s.
Wow, thanks! Great suggestions. I’d forgotten about Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom, though it’s been on my IFDB wishlist for a while - I really should pay more attention to myself. Lord Dunsany I’ve heard of because he was a big influence on both Lovecraft and Algernon Blackwood, so I’ll definitely be trying both of Peter Nepstead’s games. And thanks, Victor for all the other fiction suggestions. Cabell’s “Jurgen” is now on my Amazon wishlist, to which I’ve also added “The Eye of Argon”, which will sit quite nicely on my bookshelf alongside “Criswell predicts from now to the year 2000!”
A lot of those old pulp tales are public domain, which means you can download them for free. “Eye of Argon,” in the grand tradition of “so bad it’s bad,” is all over the Internet.
And it’s the centerpiece of a late-night-at-the-science-fiction-convention party game I’m really fond of (this used to be an active tradition at cons; it’s a bit old-school now but I devote a little energy every year to trying to keep it alive …)
The sober version: Happy geeks sit in a circle, and read Eye of Argon aloud, as dramatically as possible (do the voices! do the voices!). If the reading is insufficiently dramatic, the others boo and the current reader must pass the copy to the next reader. If the reader giggles or laughs, he has forfeited and must pass the copy to the next reader. If any smart-ass po-faced bastard manages to keep right on reading it dramatically without giggling or laughing for more than a couple of pages, the others pelt him with food and he must pass the copy to the next reader. Continue until the epic tale is completed, circling as many times as necessary.
The drunky version: Same thing, except when you pass from booing or pelting, you take a shot. If you pass from giggling or laughing, you take TWO shots.
I’d love to see an actual IF adaptation done. I like imagining how to implement the lockpicking puzzle in a way that would be true to the original and still “fair” on IF grounds
I can’t believe noone’s mentioned this yet. Can’t get more pulp. So wonderfully camp <3.
I don’t know any of your fave writers, but Firebird has such a lovely Russian Wondertale vibe I’d recommend it to any fantasy fan.
I heard it was traditional to occasionally do the reading with helium. Is there any truth to that?
That would be outside my experience, but I hope it’s true.