Tag Archives: Robert E. Howard

D&D the Robert E. Howard Way


The idea for this post is to illustrate with covers from my own collection of books and comics.

Robert E. Howard, for those of you who like the stories but never look for the name of the author, is the young Texan who created Conan the Barbarian.  I say “young” because, although he was born in 1906, he died in 1936 at the age of 30.  And this young man created not only the iconic hero of the epic sword and sorcery genre of fiction, but basically founded the genre itself.  He definitely laid down the basics of it as a pattern for all others to follow.  Including the players of the sword and sorcery Dungeons and Dragons game.


For D & D players the primary influence of all this is the Conan method of problem-solving.  “If you are confronted with a complex problem, a life and death problem, whack it with a sword until the problem is solved.”  This is the source of fascination for players with the fighter character; the warrior, the paladin, the knight, or the barbarian.  Superior physical prowess gives the individual control over so much more than he or she could ever be in control of in real life.  (And stop making that face while reading this.  Girls do play Dungeons and Dragons too.  I’ve seen it happen in school and with my own daughter.)


And for the story-teller, also known as the game master or dungeon master, this can be a very good thing.  The sense of power  extremely high strength and endurance scores provide get the character strongly addicted to the hack and slash style of play, allowing you to teach all kinds of timely morals to the story about the need to use your brain and your creativity once in a while as well.

Conan was a brute and a slayer.  But he is perceived as a good guy because he was also capable of standing up for the little guy, righting wrongs and protecting others from powerful evils.  Conan had empathy, if not love, for others, and exhibited truly magnificent levels of the power to sacrifice self for the good of others and the general well-being of the weak.   As game master, all you need to do is add a vulnerable character to the party that needs some protecting in the fantasy game world.  It helps if that character has a good sense of humor, useful knowledge to offer, or cuteness to offer in return for the protection.  But even that is not required.  D & D players learn to wield power in ways that benefit others.  The Spiderman thing, you know; “With great power comes great responsibility.”  It is a lesson about life that many non-D & D players also really need to learn in their youth.

The Robert E. Howard way does not always work out so well for wizards.  Conan hated magic and wizards.  He whacked wizards even harder than he did other bad guys.  But that is generally assumed to apply to evil wizards.  Conan sometimes appreciated having a wizard on his side.

But the basic conclusion is this; there is a brutal, barbarian way to handle problems in real life as well as in Dungeons and Dragons life.  And it would be much better for everyone if people learned the right way and the wrong way to use it in the game world before the choice has to be made in the real world.


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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, characters, Dungeons and Dragons, empathy, heroes, humor, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Gosh I Love Maps!

There are so many places in this world (or maybe out of this world) to visit and become a part of, that it really helps to have a map to navigate the places (especially imaginary places) with the mind’s blurry eye.


If you are ever lifted up into the stratosphere in your house by a twister, bonked on the head so you see wicked witches flying on brooms, and set down in a place filled with magical dwarfs called Munchkins… the above map might prove very useful.  I found it’s like as a kid to be thoroughly helpful as I read not only Frank L. Baum’s first book, but also his second and fifth books.  It really helps to know where you are in Oz.


Edmond Hamilton’s hero, Captain Future, needed a map of worlds like Futuria as well as Mars, the Moon, and Venus in his 1940’s Science Fiction Adventures from Captain Future Magazine.


This is Fritz Lieber’s city of Lankhmar where giant Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser commit numerous acts of stealing, wenching, fighting and drinking.  A map like this would help them in their many dealings with wizards, magicians, and strange beings.


This map could easily prove to be the salvation of Robert E. Howard’s hero, Conan the Barbarian.  The well-traveled Conan was a peerless fighter, but not much of a thinker.  So barring the odd smart girlfriend and witty, fast-talking sidekick, Conan couldn’t do without it.20151209_110653

This whole map thing was inspired by this old book that I have thumbed through so much the pages are falling out.  It contains maps of Middle Earth, Pern, Pellucidar, Atlantis, the planet Arrakis from Dune, and Narnia.

It is now the inspiration for my holiday art project.  I will create my own imaginary map from my hometown novels, a map of Norwall, Iowa, that will include the homes of many characters, fairy battlefields and secret lairs, the Gingerbread House where the witch lives, and more.  As you can see… I have only just begun.



Filed under humor, maps, Paffooney, Uncategorized