Stripping away the less central stuff and being more detailed:
Robert E. Howard's 21 Conan stories: "The Phoenix on the Sword" "The Frost-Giant's Daughter" "The God in the Bowl" "The Tower of the Elephant" "The Scarlet Citadel" "Queen of the Black Coast" "Black Colossus" "Iron Shadows in the Moon" "Xuthal of the Dusk" "The Pool of the Black One" "Rogues in the House" "The Vale of Lost Women" "The Devil in Iron" "The People of the Black Circle" The Hour of the Dragon "A Witch Shall Be Born" "The Servants of Bit-Yakin" "Beyond the Black River" "The Black Stranger" "The Man-Eaters of Zamboula" "Red Nails"
Abraham Merrit's best novels: The Moon Pool The Face in the Abyss Dwellers in the Mirage
Michael Moorcock's good Elric stories: "The Dreaming City" "While the Gods Laugh" "The Stealer of Souls" "Kings in Darkness" "The Flame Bringers" (later retitled "The Caravan of Forgotten Dreams")
Jack Vance's stories collected in The Dying Earth: "Turjan of Miir" "Mazirian the Magician" "T'sais" "Liane the Wayfarer" "Ulan Dhor" "Guyal of Sfere"
Fritz Leiber's 1939-1953 stories of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser: "Two Sought Adventure" (later retitled "The Jewels in the Forest") "The Bleak Shore" "The Howling Tower" "The Sunken Land" "Thieves' House" "Claws from the Night" "The Seven Black Priests"
The above 38 short stories and 4 novels embody for me the essential sword and sorcery bedrock of A/D&D. They float in my mind as the constant background of my A/D&D games.
An awesome list! I love the way you think and would love to play in your game sometime, since we seem to have very similar thoughts on essential fiction.
(1) All of the Conan stories are "must read" in my opinion. Good to stick with Howard's originals.
(2) Merrit's stuff is certainly classic, but I found that they were more of a struggle to read than the other authors on the list. As those are all novels, I would be tempted to trim these out because they felt a lot more dated than even REH's fiction (to me).
(3) You have selected all of the Elric stories from Moorcock's first collection, and I agree they are awesome. I'm on the fence about the second collection (Stormbringer) and its 5-6 more stories.
(4) Vance needs some appearance, but I liked "Eyes of the Overworld" more than any of the short stories you mentioned. Maybe I need to go back to re-read the short stories.
(5) Great selection of Leiber. It's the contents of "Two Sought Adventure," I believe, and is by far the best collection of stories.
I like the notion of not just certain authors, but the BEST of those authors. Interesting that they are almost always the earliest stories by each. As much as I like REH, however, the list does seem to be slanted towards his works and I wonder if it would be worth picking a half dozen of his best instead of including all Conan stories. Not really arguing for it, but just throwing the idea out there.
I also hate to see an essential list without Burroughs' A Princess of Mars. Not really the same as the others, as it features non-earthlings, but still one of the best from the era.
Last Edit: Mar 22, 2021 16:14:26 GMT -6 by Finarvyn
Marv / Finarvyn DCC playtester (2011) S&W WhiteBox author (2009) C&C playtester (2003) Builder of the TrollBridge for T&T; Amber Diceless player since 1993 OD&D Player since 1975; Metamorphosis Alpha since 1976
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!" - Dave Arneson
1. REH - I would pick some Conan stories and add some about other characters. It's the same universe anyway. For example "The The Valley of the Worm" is my favorite fantasy short story. Kull stories were also better than some Conan. 2. Merritt - I've read only "The Face in the Abyss". I wasn't surprised when found out that it's a fix-up - feels like 2 novellas combined into one. 3. Not being a big fan of Moorcock, I must admit that Elric stories were very influential. The first collection is far better than "Stormbringer" 4. Vance is a key to understand D&D. "The Dying Earth" stories are awesome and I like them better than Cugel. 5. Leiber - good selection I guess, but I have to refresh these stories.
4. Vance is a key to understand D&D. "The Dying Earth" stories are awesome and I like them better than Cugel.
You know, I go back and forth on this. Cugel is such a delightfully amoral character and his shenanigans are timeless, but it definitely seems like the first collection of short stories that follow different protagonists more directly laid foundations for D&D. Rhialto contributed a lot to gonzo and high-level play, similarly. (Flying mansions, Ioun stones, etc.)
"Beyond the reach of human range, A drop of hell, a touch of strange."