This one was surprisingly harder to do than the television and movie articles. There’s plenty of books I’ve been influenced by in that I stole from them for plot or characters, but as an overall influence on my gaming style, books haven’t had the impact of film. When they do influence me, they are usually more genre-specific.

1) The Flashman series by George MacDonald Fraser. I didn’t read these until I started to get into history thanks to Space: 1889, but once I started to read them, I was an instant fan. The style of dialogue, the examination of the attitudes of the Victorian period, and particularly the use of real people as primary characters was very influential on how I use history and historical figures in my historical and modern games. The series also fed my desire to be more realistic in my games.

2) The Sprawl Trilogy by William Gibson. Gibson was a master borrower in his early works — fusing the crime noir and spare wording of Elmore Leonard with high tech trappings, something that Ridley Scott would also do with Blade Runner, with a strong critical eye toward technology, capitalism, and power. It’s a powerful enough “look” that it helped spawn a subgenre of science fiction, a slew of “cyberpunk” books, and the influences on settings put out continues to this day. If you’re down and out types fighting the evil corporation, the Alliance, fascist police states, or something the like, there’s likely Gibsonian DNA in your game. There usually is in mine (strangely, there’s a strong Elmore Leonard feel to some of the Liberty City setting for our new supers campaign. Coupled with superheroes and jet age high tech, it feels like Gibson writting episodes of The Venture Brothers.)

3) Master and Commander, Patrick O’Brien (but you can use any of the series): O’Brien is a master of how people work. How the slightest, stupid thing can take a victory and crush your joy in it, or how the smallest kindnesses can buoy you up, no matter how bad things are going. His easy characterization, and his sharp eye for how people respond to the world around him, makes them fantastic primers for crafting NPCs.

4) The Rogue Warrior novels by Richard Marcinko: The former Co of SEAL Team 6, Marcinko’s a colorful character who wrote a series of action/spy novels in the 1990s and early 2000s that were pretty damned good. They benefited from his military experience, his real adventures, and while they were politically incorrect and violent, they are an excellent primer in how to do large-group spy games. I had trouble running espionage games for 3+ characters well, but Marcinko show you how teams work in these situations — from the division of labor in doing surveillance, putting together information, planning and executing assaults. The early ones are the best. (His biography Rogue Warrior is also a blast to read.) Couple it with a few viewings of the first two seasons of The Unit and you’ll have a handle on large-group spy games pretty quickly.

 

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