Despite all the discussion of magazines and stories dedicated to explicitly fantasy and sci-fi stories, one important area that hasn’t seen quite as much activity is the historical non-fiction adventure market. That’s not to say that it has gone completely undiscussed; everyone knows that D&D owes a considerable debt to juggernauts of the genre like Zorro, The Three Musketeers, and the stories of Robin Hood. But if the lesser known works of the pulp sff magazines contributed to the genre and are worth a look, then it’s entirely possible that the lesser known works of other fictional adventurers contributed to the genre and are worth a look as well. After all, the line between historical fiction and fantasy fiction is often as blurry as the line between fantasy and science fiction.
To that end, I looked through the archive of freely available pulp magazines from PulpMags.Org and downloaded the November 1946 issue of Mammoth Adventure specifically because the cover art and story featured a man swashbuckling his way through New Spain. You can’t get much more inspirational than a story featuring a fighting holy man and a swashbuckler fighting against a corrupt city government.
|A monk climbing a wall|
while sword fighting? Can't
get much pulpier than that.
What follows is a fast tale featuring traps, counter-ambushes, captures, and escapes, all featuring the flashing steel, faceless minions, and dastardly villains you expect from a swashbuckling story. Is it fantasy? Beyond the fictional setting and characters, no. Is it inspirational for fantasy adventure gaming? You better believe it.
This story gives a classic example of a corrupt city government and the way in which one powerful family can use the power of the purse and city guard to cause all sorts of mayhem for player characters. It does so in a simple enough manner for any DM to implement at his table. It shows how death is not the only fate to follow poor dice rolls – a good capturing, tossing in the castle dungeon, and villainesque, “I’ll give you the night to think on how I’ll kill you in the morning,” can lead to thrilling escapes, more sword fighting, and everything you want from a tabletop adventure game.It even includes a less-than-holy cleric whose service to god has more to do with a well handled blade than with a sacramental delivery service. He may not be terribly pious, technically he may not even be a member of the clergy whose robes he stole, but the stout Brother Paco serves God in his own way, and it’s a way in which any cleric PC should be proud to serve.
The moral this story is that the Prophet Gygax, upon whose writings all others are built, used adventure fiction of all sorts as inspiration for his game. Although historical fiction gets barely a nod in the sacramental books, it can serve as a catalyst for any game of adventure from the shores of Middle Earth to the stars of the Polity. Go thou forth and do likewise.