Question of the Week: Fantasy in the 1980s

To expand upon the theme of a question I asked on Facebook, what are your favorite fantasy novels and films of the 1980s? You can have a little wiggle-room for films and books from the late 70s or early 90s, but part of the reason I ask is because I’m interested in what’s unique to that decade. Thus, even if you discovered R.E. Howard or J.R.R. Tolkien in the 80s, that’s not what I’m looking for this week.

More importantly, what elements of those novels and films do you find have become dated or tired now that you look back at them? And which elements endure or must return to save us all from the dread Grimdark*?



  • I like dark fantasy. There’s no need to crush me for this joke.

Question of the Week: Creature Feature

As a kid, I loved nothing better than monster movies. They weren’t horror movies; they were monster movies. My friends and I traded monster cards, and on weekends I watched Count Gore DeVol (Dick Dyszel) present an endless parade of monsters on Creature Feature.

The first magazine I ever subscribed to was, of course, Famous Monsters of Filmland. What captured my imagination most were the articles on makeup and special effects. The earliest Halloween costume I remember making myself was a mummy (for which I tied for third place). By high school, I was doing my own prosthetics and makeup to transform into Quasimodo (ask me about the last day the Mormons came to our house) or the Wolfman and entertain the lineup for our marching band’s annual haunted house fundraiser.

Lon Chaney’s Wolfman was my early favorite, even though I recognized that Karloff’s performance in Bride of Frankenstein was the best depiction of a monster (with apologies to Lon’s father, who was overall the greatest monster actor). After puberty, just as young boys eventually give up Luke Skywalker for Han Solo, I transferred my sympathies to the Creature from the Black Lagoon because all he wanted was the girl.

Answer me two questions this week: Who’s your favorite classic (pre-1970) movie monster? And who’s your favorite contemporary movie monster? Of course also: why?

#RPGaDay: Favorite Character

8. Favorite Character. I’m guessing this means favorite character I’ve played. It’s a tough question, since I’ve seldom played a character more than a few times since I was a kid. I can’t even remember his name, but one night I played a high-school bully in a session of Don’t Look Back: Terror is Never Far Behind (more on that session in later questions, I’m sure). We were a group of two bullies and two nerds. My bully was the trailer-trash one who took the Urkle-type nerd under his protection, lit his cigarette off the face of a burning zombie, and later punched out a VJ when our shenanigans were broadcast live on MTV.



Question of the Week: Tabletop Games Based on Books and Movies

My three favorite roleplaying games to play (I have several other favorites to read) are Dungeons & Dragons (and its various descendants), Star Wars Saga Edition (which I suppose is also a descendant of D&D), and Call of Cthulhu. The first orbits a vast body of fantasy fiction around the twin axes of J.R.R. Tolkien and R.E. Howard. The second obviously expands (enormously) on the space fantasy films. The third is based on a body of fiction surrounding H.P. Lovecraft’s Mythos.

Few popular RPGs aren’t based on a genre defined by an author or a group of authors who define a subgenre. The World of Darkness owes a great deal to Anne Rice, who of course owes a similar debt to every Gothic novel ever. Shadowrun and Cyberpunk wouldn’t exist without William Gibson and his comrades in the movement. And every Pulp adventure game really should open with a dedication to Lester Dent and the other gods of his pantheon.

What are your favorite games clearly based on a single author or film or TV show? What games have you played that clearly owe no debt to a literary or film or TV source?


Pathfinder Tales on Sale

After initial delight to see three-and-a-half of my four-and-a-half Pathfinder Tales are back in the Paizo top 10, my next thought was, “Only three-and-a-half? Unacceptable!”

Then I realized that the surge of the earlier books might have something to do with the current sale on Pathfinder Tales ebooks, a sale that includes my earlier contributions but not King of Chaos.

Take advantage of the sale to check out plenty of great stories set in Golarion, from 69-cent novellas to $4.89 novels. You’ll see work by authors such as Elaine Cunningham, Ed Greenwood, Howard Andrew Jones, Liane Merciel, Tim Pratt, James L. Sutter, and your humble servant.

After you’ve read some, take a moment to lay a big sloppy review on those you like best. The short fiction, in particular, could use a few more reviews.