Insight from Fantasy Novels

I just finished book 1 of the House of Serpents trilogy Venom's Taste (House of Serpents #1) by Lisa Smedman.

Two great takeaways are:

  1. Yuan Ti society.
  2. Psionic mechanics.

Please share what you’ve read that will be helpful in you fantasy gaming.

Where do I start? I fashioned my Elven society on a book I don’t even remember the title of. The Eyrian Army is patterned after Commentaries on the Gallic War. I have made an effort to not be Tolkien. Yes I read the book, in high school, it lived in my back pocket for a while.

We take something away form everything we read. I think the news use to be a great source of scenarios, anymore it’s too dark. What is a good source is bad movies. Why? You really want to fix it. A good movie you are satisfied with.

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I’m an unapologetic fan of Clark Ashton Smith’s fantastical works, especially those set in the ancient past and far future, and that fanship definitely shaped my design aesthetics. While I’ve derived inspiration and some barely-disguised material from Jack Vance, Glen Cook, and Steven Erikson (Erikson’s easily my fave epic fantasy), nearly every time I homebrew a world or make a stab at my own epic fantasy fiction there’s a fever dream of CAS in there somehow. Real formative stuff for me.


I read Dying Earth, Eyes of the Overworld. And Cugel’s Saga. The last two were the best and it’s easy to see some of that “Vancian dialect “ in Gygax’s writing.

I don’t understand how Gygax got the D&D magic system’s inspiration from Vance. I’d love to see a response with an example.

He said as much himself.

The two biggest borrowed elements seem to be in the fanciful, grandiose naming of some spells, and the fact that casting a memorized spell erases it from the magic-user’s mind.

ETA: They also borrowed specific spells, or were at least pretty inspired by the names. The most egregious might be “Prismatic Spray,” lifted directly from Vance’s “Excellent Prismatic Spray.”