Fritz Leiber and Dungeons and Dragons


Lieber was the father of the sword and sorcery aspect of fantasy writing. In fact, he is credited for coining the phrase “sword and sorcery”. When TSR, who owned the Dungeons and Dragons franchise, started the publication Dragon Magazine, a magazine devoted to the game, it was no mistake that they featured Leiber in the first and many subsequent issues. When Gary Gygax grew bored with traditional historical military war games and decided to create D&D, he borrowed heavily from Lieber’s writing. Specially his Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser series. Everyone knows the influence Tolkien had on the game but fewer know Lieber’s contributions. Class based guilds, dual classes, the barbarian class and patron deities to name just a few. One day at GenCon, Gygax and a few of us hosts from AOL’s Online Gaming Forum, where we actually ran D&D games online, were sitting in a bar after playing in a game ran by Gygax and one of his co authors Frank Mentzer. EGG lamented the fact that no one would give Leiber credit as Leiber just wasn’t as famous as Tolkien. Here is an article written by Leiber that appeared in the very first issue of Dragon Mag. I saw this issue go for $1,600.00 at auction at this very same GenCon back in the 90s. No telling its worth today,

Fritz Leiber is known for his excellent writing. Soon he’ll be known for the game he & Harry Fischer have created — Lankmar
by Fritz Leiber
I tried to explain to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser about wargamers and the game of Lankhmar. “You mean they’re using our territory to fight in?” the Mouser demanded. “We ought to charge ‘em toll or tariff, ambushing those who refuse to pay.” I tried some more. “Oh, so they fight only with their minds?” Fafhrd said. “That sounds sick to me. I keep my mind solely for enshrining the images of beautiful women.” “A sort of penny peep-show, eh?” the Mouser observed to him. “Frix and her tricks, et cetera.” “Say rather a temple,” Fafhrd replied decorously, with admirable self-control. “But about these wargamers or mind-fighters,” the Mouser said, turning back to me. “I’ll wager some of ‘em aren’t above using a real knife under the table, especially if the games goes against ‘em.” “A man could keep on playing a table game, though hamstrung,” Fafhrd put in. “Still, it would probably upset his judgment, don’t you think?” the Mouser pointed out to him. I kept on trying, explaining that the wargamers wanted to know about the geography and terrains of the World of Nehwon and which earth soldiers most resembled in weapons and tactics the warriors of the various chief lands of Lankhmar. At one time the Mouser wanted me to call in Karl Treuherz, suggesting that being a German and inevitably scholarly he had probably written an encyclopedia of Nehwon to match his Lankhmarese-German German-Lankhmarese dictionary. (Karl is the third German — or person of any sort, excluding some of the Devourers and the pryings of Alyx the Picklock — to have penetrated Nehwon, the others being myself and Harry Otto Fischer, widely revered inventor of the two characters. (Treuherz’ adventures are in The Swords of Lankhmar.) But I perservered and we finally agreed on the following points (of course, data about my own books in English I had to supply mostly by myself): All Nehwon lands that I‘ve been told of use the sword, spear, bow and sling. The Lankhmarts rely chiefly on the spear or pike (along with the sword, of course) and prefer the sling to the bow. They may be likened to the Romans or be thought of as, if I may use such a term, southern medievals. The men of the Eight Cities like the spear too, but favor the bow. They are like Germans, Swedes, or — again, pardon — northern medievals. As for the Eastern Lands, think of Saracens, Arabs, Parthians, Assyrians even. They ride the camel and elephant, and use the bow extensively. Mingols, unsurprisingly, are much like Mongols — the swift squadrons of Ghenghis Khan or Tamerlane. The horse, of course, and the bow above all other weapons. While the Northern Mercenaries use spear and sword exclusively; Quarmallians make that the sword and sling.
The only map of Nehwon I know of, most reliable in its central and southern (bottom) portions, was first sketched out and drawn by Martha McElroy (Mrs. Harry Fischer), redrawn by another for Amra, and that redrawing reproduced, somewhat simplified, in the Ace The Swords of Lankhmar and in the French and German translations, where the Cold Waste becomes Deserts Froids and Eis-Ode respectively. This shows only a section of the northern hemisphere, showing longitudinally about one sixth of the circumference of the planet (or globular vacuity) and going from the north pole no farther south than the northern tropic. Exactly where Klesh is one asks in vain. It must always be remebered that I know no more of Nehwon than I have put into my stories. There are no secret volumes of history, geography, etc., written before the tales themselves were spun. I rely wholly on what Fafhrd and the Mouser have told me, testing them against each other, and sifting out exaggerations and lies when I must. And while my conferences with the Twain have been rewarding, they also have been fewer than I’d wish. I have handled no little books of Ningauble or scrolls or Srith. For the lands east of the Sea of Monsters, much can, be discovered from the stories written since the map was drawn. Much can especially be discovered from the tales “The Circle Curse” (in Swords Against Death as published by Ace, of course, as have been all five Swords books) and “Trapped in the Shadowland” (in The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories, edited by Lin Carter, DAW, newly published). The Shadowland, abode of Death and said to contain what some call Nehwon’s death pole, lies east of the Sea of Monsters. Beyond it, still farther east, is the strange land of Eevamarensee, where mankind and domestic animalkind are alike hairless, but whether this betokens an advanced civilization or decadence only, I know not.
At the antipodes from the Shadowland somewhere in the otherwise unknown southern continent(s) there is said to lie Godsland, abode and paradise of at least some but perhaps not all of the gods of Nehwon and containing that world’s life pole (distinct of course from its rotational pole, just as with earth’s rotational and magnetic poles). Evidence for this is found in the story “Under the Thumbs of the Gods,” to date published only in the April 1975 issue of the magazine Fantastic, a treasurehouse of D & D material. In my newly published (DAW, Sept. 1975) book The Second Book of Fritz Leiber there is a Fafhrd-Mouser story of some length, “Trapped in the Sea of Stars.” In it the Twain seek to sail to the southern continent(s) and encountering the Great Equatorial Current fail in their attempt, but appear to make some astonishing discoveries about the astronomy of Lankhmar, And in the soon-to-be-published Flashing Swords: #3, editied by Lin Carter (Dell) there is a sizeable Fafhrd-Mouser novelette, “The Frost Monstreme,” launching a new cycle of their adventures. In it we learn of Rime Isle, a large northern island in the Outer Sea, inhabited by men who appear to be of Fafhrd’s breed at least as to size and situated due west of the Claws and due north of Simorgya (for which see “The Sunken Land” in Swords Against Death). As I regretfully parted from the Twain (somewhere in the caverns of Ningauble, of course, for they’re the only place I know of where Nehwon and other worlds link — see “Adept’s Gambit” in Swords in the Mist) Fafhrd remarked, “Don’t forget Stardock when you write for these wargamers — a whole vast Dungeon inside Nehwon’s mighiest mountain, with routes both on the mountain and inside it.” Continued on Overleaf
“Better yet Quarmall, and not half as chilly,” the Mouser in eagerly. “A vasty underground world of many levels, a nation in the mines! There’s a Dungeon would send wargamers ape!” (They were referring to sub-worlds of Nehwon described in Swords Against Wizardry.) Taking fire from them, I called back, reciting the following: A PROPOSAL FOR AN ADDITIONAL PIECE AT LANKHMAR THE MAN (WOMAN, rather) Each player has also a Houri. WEAPONS Each player has also two Daggers. MOVES, POWERS, AND INTERACTIONS A Houri has six movement points. An Enemy Soldier three or fewer spaces from a Houri must move directly toward her. If in range of two or more Houris he must move toward the nearest, whether enemy or friend. If equidistant from two or more Houris, he may not move at all. A Hero three or fewer squares from an Enemy Houri has his powers halved, but he may move as he will. A Houri may wield only a Dagger, though she may carry other weapons. A Dagger has the same range as a Sword, but it can kill only a Houri or a Hero. A Houri may be killed only be a Hero or another Houri.
During my recitation I had been moving away from them, already caught in the time eddy that would (alas!) irresistibly carry me back to my own world and (ugh!) typewriter. Fafhrd shouted faintly, “Are Houris slimly beautiful?” “So much so,” I yelled back, “that they make all men their helpless slaves and intoxicate even a Hero to madness.” “I don’t like the idea,” came the Mouser’s ghostly shout. “Women are ever treacherous and complicate any game to the point of sheerest insanity.” “That’s the idea,” I bellowed back. I caught only one more shout — from Fafhrd. I think it was, “What color is a Houri’s hair?”

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