I've talked about some of the influences for my World of Samoth campaign before. You can search through the "Inspirations" tag on my blog here to see a list of them, but the main ones I've written about so far include the World of Conan, B/X D&D's Known World, and true Earth history. I also touched on it a little in my "Game Memories" post about Supplement I: Greyhawk last year.
I had planned to write a post about the next major influence on my campaign world, but I thought before that I'd take a step back and write a little about all of the influences, in general, that have helped me shaped my world over the past 25+ years.
These "Game World Inspirations" posts are an attempt to get more into the real influences of the campaign and start a dialogue with people about their experiences with this source material. Most of these influences will be familiar to many of you, while some might be a little obscure. Who knows? You might discover something here that piques your interest to go seek it out.
How do you start talking about the influences of a campaign world, when such a thing is constantly evolving? Back in May of 2001 when I started my World of Samoth Campaign, I wrote a “campaign influences” section of a “World Primer” that I sent to all of my players. Later on, I re-wrote it slightly for publication on the first World of Samoth campaign website (hosted by the late Yahoo! Geocities). I have reproduced the Campaign Influences section of my primer, below.
The World of Samoth will be at the same time very different, and very similar, to fantasy worlds that you may have encountered before through literature, movies, or other games. My influences for the creation of the world include the following.
Fiction: Tolkiensian fantasy has actually very little to do with my world. The main literary fiction influences include Robert E. Howard's Conan and Solomon Kane stories (including the Marvel Comics adaptation in the 70s and 80s), the Dune series, and a book of short stories called Liavek.
Movies: No single movie has had a big impact on the flavor of the world since the majority of the fantasy movies out there have been pretty terrible. [Editor's note: Remember, this was May of 2001, before Jackson's LOTR films had come out]. For a good idea of what a typical large urban area looks like in the western part of the world, the city of Acquitaine from the movie "Ladyhawke" provides a good example. The village in "Brotherhood of the Wolf" provides an example of a smaller village on the borders in the west.
Historical: Actual earth history is the main source of inspiration for the campaign. I like world history and have therefore attempted to use this influence to create believable cultures. I like the juxtaposition of different eras of history as well as different world cultures, so you can expect to see Renaissance, Medieval, Byzantine, ancient Chinese, feudal Japanese, ancient Middle Eastern, ancient Egyptian, and medieval African cultures in the campaign. The level of technology across all cultures is roughly equivalent to early renaissance Europe without the firearms.
Game Worlds: I began the World of Samoth about 15 years ago by basing my world roughly on the World of Greyhawk. The campaign has altered greatly since then and bears almost no resemblance to this game world any more. The "Known World" of the basic D&D game and the world of Hyboria (from the Conan stories) have had a large influence on the political structures and cultures. I have never played in the world of the Forgotten Realms, but recently purchased the 3rd Edition Campaign Setting for this world so there will be a few influences from this in the world. Lastly, I am constantly buying campaign settings from Wizards of the Coast and other 3rd Party Publishers, all of which have constant, subtle influences on the world. Two of the main sources from these are the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures and the 2nd Edition Arabian Adventures from TSR, both of which were helpful in fleshing out the Asian and Middle Eastern areas of the World of Samoth.
How many of these influences have you all used in your campaign worlds?