Inspirational Media for Fantasy Games

My preferences are pulp, historical, or gothic fantasy, not cliché Tolkien and ripoffs thereof (especially most "D&D" novels). In my games, the starting areas are more primitive and based on European myths, and the further afield the players go, the weirder the local people and monsters become, eventually space opera.

Draw instead on literature and movies ranging from classic adventure stories, weird tales, sword & sorcery, sword & planet, space opera, horror, samurai/ninja (jidai geki), kung fu, suspense, and westerns. A great many early pulp magazines and books are free on archive.org, and almost all can be translated directly into setting and adventures.

bold indicates the ones I find most relevant or meaningful, your emphasis might be very different. Books I sort by author, most others by title. Often "series" indicates a single novel and many short stories; if you're lucky, you can find a collection.

Comics

  • Conan, by Marvel Comics, Dark Horse
  • Devil Dinosaur, by Marvel Comics
  • Dracula, by Warren Comics
  • ElfQuest, by Pini, Wendy & Richard
  • Heavy Metal Magazine
  • Herculoids, by Hanna-Barbera
  • Knights of the Dinner Table, by Kenzer & Co.
  • Kull the Conqueror, by Marvel Comics
  • Star Wars, by Marvel Comics
  • That Time I Got Reincarnated as a Slime, by FUSE
  • Tomb of Dracula, Werewolf by Night, Giant-Size Chillers, by Marvel Comics
  • Vampire Hunter D, by Kikuchi, Hideyuki & Amano, Yoshitaka
  • Vampirella, by Warren Comics
  • Warlock, by Marvel Comics

Literature, Adventure or Historical

  • Bullfinch, Thomas: Mythology (mostly for the poetic/literary references)
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey: Canterbury Tales (mostly for the snapshot of medieval commoner life)
  • Doyle, Arthur Conan: Lost World, Maracot Deep
  • Dumas (père), Alexandre: The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Wolf Leader
  • Frazer, James George: The Golden Bough
  • Hamilton, Edith: Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes
  • Kipling, Rudyard: The Jungle Book, "With the Night Mail", "As Easy as ABC"
  • Peake, Mervyn: Gormenghast series
  • Stevenson, Robert Louis: Treasure Island, The Black Arrow, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
  • Walpole, Horace: Castle of Otranto

Literature, Fantasy

  • Alexander, Lloyd: The Chronicles of Prydain
  • Anderson, Poul: The Queen of Air & Darkness, Three Hearts and Three Lions
  • Asprin, Robert Lynn: Thieves' World anthologies, Myth Adventures series
  • Bear, Greg: Songs of Earth and Power (aka The Infinity Concerto/The Serpent Mage)
  • Bradley, Marion Zimmer: Darkover series
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Barsoom, but also Pellucidar, Tarzan, and Venus series
  • Cook, Glen: Black Company, Dread Empire
  • Cooper, Susan: The Dark is Rising series
  • de Camp, L. Sprague: Novarian series, The Tritonian Ring series, Viagens Interplanetarias series
  • de Camp, L. Sprague & Pratt, Fletcher: The Compleat Enchanter
  • Donaldson, Steven R.: Chronicles of Thomas Covenant series
  • Dunsany, "Lord": The King of Elfland's Daughter
  • Farmer, Philip José: Dark Is the Sun, World of Tiers series, Dungeon series (ed.)
  • Gentle, Mary: Rats & Gargoyles, Golden Witchbreed
  • Grimm, Jakob & Wilhelm: Grimm's Fairy Tales
  • Harrison, M. John: Virconium series
  • Howard, Robert E.: Conan, Kull, Bran Mak Morn series
  • Kurtz, Katherine: Deryni series
  • Leiber, Fritz: Swords series
  • May, Julian: Pliocene Exile series
  • Miéville, China: Perdido Street Station, The Scar
  • Moorcock, Michael: Elric saga, The Eternal Champion
  • Niven, Larry: "What Good is a Glass Dagger?"
  • Norton, Andre: Star-Man's Son, Witch World series
  • Poortvliet, Rien & Huygen, Wil: Gnomes, Secrets of the Gnomes
  • Pratchett, Terry: Discworld series, The Carpet People, Nomes trilogy
  • Pratchett, Terry & Baxter, Stephen: The Long Earth series
  • Rothfuss, Patrick: Name of the Wind, Wise Man's Fear
  • Saberhagen, Fred: Dracula series, Book of Swords series
  • Sapkowski, Andrzej: The Witcher series
  • Shakespeare, William: The Tempest, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Titus Andronicus
  • Smith, Clark Ashton: Zothique series, Averoigne series
  • Spenser, Edmund: The Faerie Queene
  • Stableford, Brian: Empire of the Necromancers
  • Stoddard, James: The High House (Evenmere Chronicles)
  • Vance, Jack: Dying Earth, Lyonesse, etc.
  • Wagner, Karl Edward: Kane series
  • Wagner, Richard: The Rhinegold & The Valkyrie, Siegfried & The Twilight of the Gods
  • Wells, Martha: Element of Fire, Death of the Necromancer
  • White, T.H.: The Once and Future King
  • Wolfe, Gene: Book of the New Sun, Book of the Long Sun
  • Zelazny, Roger: Amber series, Jack of Shadows, Lord of Light

Literature, Horror

  • Barker, Clive: Books of Blood, The Great and Secret Show, Hellbound Heart, Imajica, Lord of Illusions, Weaveworld
  • Chambers, Robert W.: The King in Yellow
  • Féval (père), Paul: Vampire City
  • Hodgson, William Hope: The House on the Borderland, The Night Land
  • King, Stephen: Dark Tower, Night Shift, 'Salem's Lot, Skeleton Crew
  • Lovecraft, H.P.: Dream Cycle, "The Nameless City", etc.
  • Lukyanenko, Sergei: Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch
  • Lumley, Brian: Necroscope
  • Merritt, Abraham: Moon Pool, Ship of Ishtar, "People of the Pit"
  • nostalgebraist: Floornight, The Northern Caves, Almost Nowhere
  • Poe, Edgar Allan: "Masque of the Red Death", "Fall of the House of Usher", "Hop-Frog", Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket
  • Polidori, John William: The Vampyre
  • Rymer, James Malcolm: Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood
  • Shelley, Mary: Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
  • Stoker, Bram: Dracula, The Jewel of Seven Stars
  • Wellman, Manly Wade

Literature, Science Fiction

  • Aldiss, Brian: Helliconia series, Hothouse (aka "The Long Afternoon of Earth"), Non-Stop (aka "Starship"), Galactic Empires Vol. I-II (ed.)
  • Asher, Neal: The Skinner, The Voyage of the Sable Keech, Jable Sharks stories
  • Brackett, Leigh: The Sword of Rhiannon, The Secret of Sinharat, People of the Talisman
  • Herbert, Frank: Dune series, Dosadi Experiment, Green Brain, WorShip series (with Bill Ransom)
  • Kuttner, Henry: "Crypt-City of the Deathless One"
  • Lanier, Sterling: Hiero's Journey
  • Moore, C.L. & Kuttner, Henry: "Earth's Last Citadel"
  • Piper, H. Beam: Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen, Paratime series
  • Verne, Jules: Journey to the Center of the Earth
  • Williamson, Jack: Darker Than You Think, The Stonehenge Gate

Movies/TV

  • Bakshi, Ralph: Wizards (1977), Fire & Ice (1983)
  • Barbarian Queen (1985)
  • Beastmaster (1982)
  • Bloodrayne (2005)
  • The Bride with White Hair (1993)
  • The Cave (2005)
  • Cemetery Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) (1994)
  • A Chinese Ghost Story 1-3 (1987, 1990, 1991)
  • The City of Lost Children (1995)
  • Clash of the Titans (1981)
  • Corman, Roger: The Undead (1957), House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Raven (1963), The Terror (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), Deathsport (1978)
  • The Count of Monte-Cristo (1975), The Man in the Iron Mask (1977)
  • The Covenant (2006)
  • The Craft (1996)
  • The Dark Crystal (1982), Age of Resistance (2019)
  • Deathstalker 1-3 (1983, 1987, 1988)
  • The Descent (2005)
  • Dragon Gate Inn (1992)
  • Dragonslayer (1981)
  • Dungeons & Dragons cartoon (1983-5), Requiem (2020)
  • Errementari (aka The Blacksmith and The Devil) (2017)
  • Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness (1981, 1987, 1992)
  • Excalibur (1981)
  • Fearless Vampire Killers (1967) "Oy vey, have you got the wrong vampire!"
  • Flynn, Errol: Captain Blood (1935), Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1966)
  • Hammer Film Productions: all of their films
  • Hawk the Slayer (1980)
  • Heavy Metal (1981)
  • Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
  • Hellraiser (1987)
  • I, Claudius (1976)
  • Kaye, Danny: Inspector General (1949), Court Jester (1955)
  • Krull (1983)
  • Kurosawa, Akira & Mifune, Toshiro: The Seven Samurai (1954), Throne of Blood (1957), The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961), Sanjuro (1962)
  • Labyrinth (1986)
  • Ladyhawke (1985)
  • Legend (1985)
  • Mutant Chronicles (2008)
  • Night Gallery (1969)
  • Night Watch (2004)
  • One Million B.C. (1940), One Million Years B.C. (1966), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), Land That Time Forgot (1974), People That Time Forgot (1977)
  • Le Pacte des Loups (aka Brotherhood of the Wolf) (2001)
  • Power, Tyrone: The Mark of Zorro (1940), The Black Swan (1942) Prince of Foxes (1949), The Black Rose (1950)
  • Princess Bride (1987)
  • Rage of the Buccaneers (1961)
  • Ravenous (1999)
  • Rome (2005)
  • Romero, George: Night of the Living Dead (1968), and all direct sequels
  • Sinbad, the Sailor (1947), Jason and the Argonauts (1963), 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958), Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973), Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
  • Slayers (1989-)
  • Stargate SG-1 (1997)
  • The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
  • The Sword of Doom (1966)
  • Tales from the Darkside: Series (1983) and Movie (1990)
  • 13 Assassins (2010)
  • 13th Warrior (1999)
  • Thief of Baghdad (1924, 1940, 1961)
  • The Three Musketeers (1973), The Four Musketeers: Milady's Revenge (1974), The Return of the Musketeers (1989)
  • Thundarr the Barbarian (1980)
  • Vampire Princess Miyu (1997)
  • Warlock (1989)
  • Willow (1988)
  • Witchfinder General (1968)

Music

  • Amon Amarth
  • Hammerfall
  • Hawkwind
  • Nightwish
  • Uriah Heep
  • Wagner, Richard

Pulp Magazines

  • Amazing Stories
  • Astounding Science Fiction
  • Avon Fantasy Reader
  • Fantastic Adventures
  • Fantastic Universe
  • Fantasy & Science Fiction
  • Galaxy Science Fiction
  • if Worlds of Science Fiction
  • Nebula Science Fiction
  • Planet Stories
  • Science Fiction Plus
  • Startling Stories
  • Super Science Fiction
  • Thrilling Wonder Stories
  • Weird Tales

Sir Not Appearing in This List

  • The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings: Dull, racist, classist, sexist, closeted source material. Some movies are pretty, but NO.
  • Conan the Barbarian, Conan the Destroyer, Red Sonja: Poor adaptations. Good soundtrack. Read a book or comic.
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Yes, yes. We all love it. But it's not at all what I want to encourage in games.
  • Robin Hood: Men in Tights: The best of the Robin Hood movies, but based on the worst of the Robin Hood movies.
  • Dungeons & Dragons movies: I mean, I like Jeremy Irons as much as anyone, but NO.

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