Today marks the 112th anniversary of the birth of my favorite author, the legendary Robert E. Howard, and it’s no secret that Gary Gygax was a huge fan of Robert E. Howard as well.
The influence of Howard’s Conan on Dungeons and Dragons is undeniable. Fantasy roleplaying would simply not exist as it does today if not for the creation of the sword and sorcery genre and we have Robert E. Howard to thank for that.
Gygax first mentioned Conan in IFW Monthly in May of 1969.
That early Hyborian Wargame Society surely added fuel to the fires of creation in which Dungeons & Dragons was forged. Listed amongst others in the 1979 Dungeon Master’s Guide’s Appendix N, Robert E. Howard’s influence was all over the game. One need look no further than Conan’s last published adventure Red Nails, which featured a wilderness trek and battle with a dragon that ultimately led into a dungeon delve that mirrored so many TSR modules throughout the late 70s and early 80s.
Gygax wrote in depth about Conan in the now famous April 1980 issue of Dragon Magazine, which you can read here: Gygax on Conan
TSR went on to publish two Conan modules in 1984, Conan Unchained and Conan Against Darkness. Both had their faults, but I was thrilled that they existed at all. A year later TSR would release a Conan Role-Playing Game designed by Zeb Cook using Jeff Grubb’s Marvel Super-Hero rules. It had even more faults and simply strayed too away from what made Robert E. Howard’s iconic character special.
Dungeons & Dragons and Conan of Cimmeria walked hand in hand for me in those early days. I discovered them both around the same time and are invariably linked in my mind. While Dungeons and Dragons has evolved over the years, becoming better refined in many respects, I can’t help but think that some of that gritty Hyborian Age realism is missing from the game in 5th edition and that’s one of the reasons we’ve created the No Quarter Campaign Setting, looking to recapture those “days of high adventure”.