Red Nails

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode look back at Appendix N of the original Dungeon Masters Guide — Gygax’s list of inspirational and educational reading — in their Advanced Readings in Dungeons & Dragons series on, and start by looking at Robert E. Howard‘s novella, Red Nails:

The two elements that really strike home here in terms of inspiration are the populated dungeon as its own character of rivalry and strife, and black magic. The city as one massive labyrinth is great, as is the characterization of its architecture & embellishment — gleaming corridors of jade set with luminescent jewels, friezes of Babylonianesque or Aztecish builders — but it is the logic of the city that shines brightest to me. “Why don’t the people leave?” There are dragons in the forest. “What do the people eat?” They have fruit that grows just off the air. “Where do all these monsters come from?” There are crypts of forgotten wizard-kings. There is a meaningful cohesion to the place; Howard manages to stitch dinosaurs, radioactive skulls, Hatfields and McCoys, and ageless princesses into something cogent.

Naturally the commentary turns to the “problematic” handling of race and gender. I am shocked to find such outdated views amongst antediluvian barbarians.

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