Eight Characters that Made Dungeons & Dragons
Before 1974, there was no D&D. There were wargamers and works of fantastic fiction. D&D brought these all together and created a whole new hobby as well as changed the Fantasy genre. I read through most of these stories and sat down and compiled a list of the characters of fantasy that can be quickly made into a PC. I think reading any one of these books will provide you with “classic” ideas for characters in your game.
I have excluded characters from popular pre-pulp work-including Beowulf, the Song of Roland, George McDonald, the Arabian Nights,.and the Arthurian Legends.
8. Dilvish (Dilvish the Damned by Roger Zelazny)
I had a long look at Zelazny’s works and decided this was the character that most fit the D&D mold. Half-elven light fighter, clever and composed on a quest for vengeance.
7. Smaug (The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien)
Lots of ideas borrowed from existing lore, but the conniving and vain Smaug is just so much of what D&D red dragons are. Such a great character, it fit seamlessly into the D&D world, and has remained unchanged.
6. Dorian Hawkmoon (The History of the Runestaff by Michael Moorcock)
Hawkmoon is an avenger, a hero sent on a mighty quest to save the worlds. A fighter/paladin leader type, he is a straight-forward hero doing the right thing against devious warlords and an evil empire.
5. Mazirian the Magician (Tales of the Dying Earth by Jack Vance)
Vance’s short story introduces to so many concepts of how magic and magicians worked in the original game. Mazirian is your classic evil wizard out to catch himself a beautiful woman. He fits very easily in any campaign as an NPC or occasionally a PC.
4. Conan (Coming of Conan by Robert E. Howard, The Savage Sword of Conan by Roy Thomas, published by Marvel Comics)
He could be number 1 but the number of different writers that have handled him make him very different from story to story. You could even argue that Roy Thomas’ Conan is the most popular conception. They have all done a great job with him-Roy Thomas, Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, and Robert Jordan. However, the Howard stories are still special to this day.
3. Fafhrd & Gray Mouser (Swords and Deviltry by Fritz Leiber)
There is a ton of D&D in here-they seek adventure, they grab loot, they are master warriors, and they are sent everywhere by a pair of magicians to fetch some McGuffin or the Mask of McGuffin (magical items). Some of the stories become comedy or social commentary, but they are all quality and lots of fun.
2. Elric (Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock)
Angst ridden and multi-talented sorcerer/warrior. A huge success and the anti-hero model for many a PC. He served an evil god, he had a conscience, he made pacts with dread eldritch beings, he was a bad guy yet always seemed to defend the right in the end. Although Elric’s novels have not been as commercially successful as Lord of the Rings, you could easily argue that no one person has had a larger influence on the fantasy gaming genre than Moorcock.
1. Gimli (Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)
The son of Gloin receives a well deserved number 1. The main factor is that he is the longest exposure to a dwarf we get in Fantasy literature pre-1976. The other dwarves have smaller parts in their stories. So much of how people play a dwarf is based on Tolkien’s Gimli. Unlike the rest of the top 5, he does not have a mercenary nature.
Just missed: Gandalf, Cugel the Clever, Maal Dweeb, Jirel of Joiry, Earthsea series (many characters), the Chronicles of Narnia, various works by Lin Carter, various works by L. Sprauge de Camp (The Compleat Enchanter series [sic]), Witchworld, and Three Hearts and Three Lions.
Good reading to you!