Four years and forty gives one a lot of time to absorb and experience different things, different worlds; to learn about things that you might never have thought could be learned, to expand your awareness.
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity;
But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.T.E. Lawrence
There are several basic types of inspirations that fed into this. In keeping with the tradition started in the first AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, I figure I will give you the list of things that inspired me in the making of this.
As a glance through this work will tell you, I have drawn heavily from Anime imagery, with some few manga and my love of carefully selected anime works, and not merely in the sense of the Fantasy ones. This is the other kind, the kind that tells a story that isn’t meant to last indefinitely and have you punch the world.
First and foremost, I asked Players what they wanted to see. It is a diverse group, and I solicited suggestions. I had some basic ideas, some vague roughs, and the process of writing changed things significantly over the years, but that feedback, that “I want this” is important. I knew the outline of history and that I wanted to use the Lost Cities. After that, well, it was game.
Without a doubt, the single greatest impact was the conscious and intentional goal of excluding certain works from the task of designing the world.
At the outset, I decided to aim to exclude those works which had a significant impact on the core of D&D. This was not because there was anything wrong with them, but rather because they are so broadly used and so readily familiar that they actively reinforce and create biases that in turn push down on creativity and exploration of ideas and concepts. This expanded rapidly on consideration to be “nothing published between 1920 and 1980.” – effectively, the entire canon of modern fantasy.
One thing a lot of folks will be puzzled by is my wanting to move away from Tolkien based stuff. This is not because I dislike any of it. Long before I played D&D I was enraptured and in love with The Hobbit, and at one point I had memorized the entire LotR cycle and The Silmarillion.
The only way to truly have moved entirely beyond him would have been to get rid of Elfs and Dwarfs altogether, but so immense is his impact and power that when I write Elfs and Dwarfs, people and systems pause and blink, even though those were the ways to write those terms before him and even he admitted it was a grammatical error.
Tolkien absolutely had an influence that was direct: I worked to move as far away from his work as a source as I could and still be somewhat like D&D. This is harder than it sounds, because his work influenced so much of the fantasy and science fiction published in the 70’s and later that it is hard to escape that sheer overwhelming force.
That influence, though, was from being pushed back against, and I used all the filmed adaptations of his work (including Bakshi’s and the Rankin and Bass stuff) as a place not to go. My success is limited, but I did give it a heck of a go.
By that same token, though, I had to step aside from most of one of my other big influences: Edgar Rice Burroughs. Kobolds are drawn heavily from him, and there is one aspect to Goblins that I will not even pretend is not from there, combined with Alien and Aliens.
So, while the written goal was “nothing published between 1920 and 1980”, I was not wholly able to stick to that – Dimensions and Planes, for example, still owe a great deal to Zelazny, whose works often fall within that period. Those things and times and places where I did draw from I did so in a way that allows me to combine them with influences that are outside that framework. The Planes, for example, draw on emotion and on motivation, which is fairly unusual.
Another major point of exclusion was that I had to get rid of certain conventions derived from a deeply Eurocentric basis, but not in a way that excludes what drives much of D&D’s familiarity. So, it is still very Eurocentric (and I would argue USian), because those are the people I play with. I may know other cultures, but they don’t. This is why there is a peculiar quality to many of the beings that makes them less easily fixed, more malleable, and is absolutely why the PIE gods and goddesses were reduced to a tertiary basis and rendered as powerless and warped shadows save for three whose growth over time came to become a stand in for every dice roll in the game.
I know, starting with science is just ugh. But I am a sociologist and psychologist, so I am going to rely on that knowledge. It helps to remember that my interest in those fields stems in part from playing D&D itself.
The most critical things I pulled from here are ideas and deeper understanding about how social constructs work and operate, about the Structure and Agency relationship, about learning and education, memory and thought. Myths and stories, and the fundamental nature of worship and how it works, and the relationships of people to magic. The nature of the Planes and the revised Alignment system are wholly derived from this.
Books are a major part of the inspiration for an immense amount of the world, of the way that magic works, of adventures and some of the NPCs. But mostly they all filtered into my brain, running together, empowering my underlying ideas, shifting them, forming them.
The complete list of books is probably in the range of 500 or so. That is unwieldy, but a list of authors is not. So here is a list of the most impactful authors. I am certain to have forgotten a few, and here I focused on fiction. I use a lot of non-fiction works as well.
You may notice something very specific about this list, and even more so if you compare it to the original. If you didn’t, that’s ok. Not only did I not use the “normal” influences and inspirations, but I also used ones from people of color, from women, from LGBTQ folks, and that isn’t even counting the ancient folklore and mythology that wasn’t Western that I used.
C. J. Cherryh
Martin F Hengst
Guy Gavriel Kay
Elizabeth A Lynn
Be aware that I mostly took out ideas, concepts, mechanics, and trains of thought that led me elsewhere. There are only a few direct takes:
- The Gunslinger class and elements around Dorado: The Gunslinger series from Stephen King and Gunnie Rose from Charlaine Harris.
- Magical girl shows, especially PMMM and Yuki Yuna. They are a class, combined with some of the source basis for them. I like the deconstructions, which have a darker tone and fit better with the underlying goals.
- Certain structures around the Knightly Orders: Glen Cook’s Chronicles of the Black Company. Envoys, too.
- One of the adventures is lifted as directly as I can from It, by Stephen King.
- The Mystic and Monk classes are slightly influenced by the Watchtower Series, by Elizabeth A Lynn. Wuxia films and finding a path through tangles of orientalism helped finalize this version of a Monk once a young player suggested Mortal Kombat, while the Mystic you can also drop squarely into Star Wars.
- The underlying core of the history was derived from Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, and Steven Barnes’ Heorot series mashed with McCaffrey’s Pern. This does make Wyrlde both a multiple post-apocalypse and a science fiction story. And one could argue easily that some of this was influenced by the Dream Park series, as well.
I like the idea of colonizing the stars, of building a civilization, and of watching it grow and struggle. Struggle being a key thing – Skyfalls are totally pulled from Pern.
Besides, what kind of fantasy world would it be if I didn’t keep reducing advancements to rubble?
Films and Film series are normally something that I turn to for adventures – I love to use films and tv shows as sources for adventures, and even more so if they are popular among m players. But some films had an impact on the design of the world, separate from the goal of creating adventures.
Cast A Deadly Spell
James Bond Series
Jason Bourne Series
Mission Impossible Series
Kiki’s Delivery Service
Castle in the Sky
Howl’s Moving Castle
Mary and the Witches Flower
The Princess Bride
Raya and the Last Dragon
Lilo & Stitch
The Sword and the Sorcerer
I did not take from Krull. I promise.
There is no larger group of influences on the setting than Anime. Specifically. While I love and use images from game and manga and promotional work, the real influences here are anime shows, and these are not the ones most people think of when I say anime.
These can be broken up into two rough categories: Fantasy and Other. The degree of influence or specific elements is deeply variable, since the way I drew from it was more by the collective feel of the whole thing, and they all merged into the larger mass that was the undefined framework on which I draped the rest. I watch a bit of anime, and not all of it feeds into this. Personally, I find the remix of a remix to be valuable, since much of the stuff I used was, itself, influenced by D&D.
Akame Ga Kill
Ascendance of a Bookworm
Ancient Magus’ Bride
Blade & Soul
Fena: Pirate Princess
Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls in a Dungeon?
Izetta: The Last Witch
Rising of the Shield Hero
That Time I Got Reincarnated as A Slime
So I’m A Spider, So What?
Sword Art Online
Yona of the Dawn
The Executioner and Her Way of Life
Frieren: Beyond Journey’s End
Avatar: The Last Airbender
A Certain Scientific Railgun
Puella Magi Madoka Magica
Magical Girl Raising Project
Yuki Yuna is a Hero
Little Witch Academia
The Apothecary Diaries
The list of “regular” shows is about like the list of other things. Except shorter because a lot of the TV shows are anime. I like science fiction and fantasy. One could argue that I was influenced by some procedurals, but where that lies is colored by the fact that I am aware of the nature of policing. These shows had a bit of an influence that was structural and related to the Campaign in most cases, but not in direct storyline.
I am not a big video game person. I used to joke that I went from playing Dragon Slayer in the 80’s to playing Destiny in the 2010’s and there was nothing in between. Because the truth is so much stranger than fiction, but that’s what I did. So as a result, only two video games really influenced this, and one did so in much deeper ways than it appears.
The Dreadnaughts absolutely come straight from Horizon Zero Dawn and its sequel. Aloy is one of the models for the rangers here. So is a character in the anime “Is It Wrong to Pick Up Girls In A Dungeon?”, and of course they also fill in for Druids.
The door that having robot monsters in a post-apocalyptic world opened, of course, is how I managed to take a request for robot maids and created the Meka. Seriously, that was the entirety of their conception: robot warrior maids. They make good butlers, too.
Michael Whelan is no doubt the most influential artist for me, and while I didn’t see it at first, after a while I did realize there were things I absolutely used from there. The incredible and talented artists who have been with D&D since its inception are also to be recognized here.
Google is an amazing tool, and I used a lot of art from different places to better visualize things. If there is an image in this work, online or in the file, it was one of the inspirations. Or many – some of the specific things about the world are directly related to one or more of the thousand or so images I collected for my personal slideshows used for inspiration.
It should be noted that my background involves religion, and so it involves myths and stories and cycles and all that good stuff – much of it initially sparked by reading The Hobbit.
Playing D&D during the era of the actual attacks on it led me to investigate occult lore and such, and all of that in turn fed into the larger stuff you see here.
The entire Old Ones pantheon should sound familiar, because they are the Indo-European Gods. Some of the myths draw straight from ancient sources, and there is no doubt that I used my knowledge to affect magic and the planes and how all of that interacts – alongside my love of taking apart phrases and idioms.
Beyond the Pale, beyond mortal ken, to cross the veil, your kith and kin. These turns of phrase by themselves shaped a lot of things. My love of kennings from poetry, famous works by famous authors who lived and died before 1910, these things were fair game.
Lastly, sometimes I dropped something in because of a fond memory or a pop culture joke or a reference to a film. Everything else was filtered through my personal life experiences and knowledge as well – the good, the bad, the ugly. My personal task in all of this was to fix it, to make it possible for all of the assorted sources to work together, and to do so within the larger framework of D&D, even if I had to bend the hell out of some of it to make it happen. Because you can do that with D&D. I started with optional rules and moved from there.
In the end, all of this is something new made from the parts and pieces of other things, all of them, in turn, different from and separate from the stuff that inspired the very game it is built around in the first place.
“So many people think that if you’re writing fantasy,
it means you can just make everything up as you go.
Want to add a dragon? Add a dragon!
Want some magic? Throw it in.
But the thing is, regardless of whether you’re dealing with realism or fantasy, every world has rules.
Make sure to establish a natural order.”V. E. Schwab
This setting isn’t as developed or detailed as some that are out there now or that have been in the past – I would never try to go as deeply or as involved as some of the worlds out there have. But if I did this right, it doesn’t need to be.
I set out to finish a world I had started a very long time ago, give it a final form and fix it finally, instead of letting my inability to track and check consistency and the ever-present arrival of new influences and new ideas come up and change it. In a very personal way, I did it to escape this place. To allow me to create something new, to move on, even as I get to enjoy it.
The storyteller in me wants to tell stories. The scientist wants to explore strange new worlds. And the philosopher just wants to share this with the world in case there is one other person who could find this fun, usable, enjoyable, and worthwhile.
In a real sense, this is the work of a lifetime. Now to let others have their way with it.