Somehow or other, I have ended up with quite a few PDFs of older gaming publications and books, and I'll be exploring how they influenced my thoughts.
One thing that seperates me from most every other gamer today is that I have never played an MMORPG. I like JRPGs, but MMORPGS, Wizardy, and other intesive RPGs have never been able to hold my interest. The closest I came was Neverwinter Nights or Nethack, but let's face it, these are simplified for quick play as well. So you won't see me talking about MMORPG-type games or mechanics.
But in this first session of Inspirations, I'm going to talk about Clark. I first encountered him as part of a collection that had such guilty pleasures as The Drud, but his story really stood out. It was The Double Shadow.
So begins the tale. You see, Pharpetron is being haunted by a new shadow, which is constantly getting closer to his own. This is the price of his probing into the past via the agency of a shade (a ghost) into the primeval history, which was populated by terrible serpentine humanoids and their inscrutable magics.
The price of any reward in a decent RPG is measured in risks, and your own hubris is always lurking in the shadows to bring you down.
Anyways, when I read this story, with its mummy servants and whatnot, I thought to myself, this Clark fella is pure D&D.
One of my favorite stories of his has several examples of strange monsters and encounters, like some sort of horrific hex-crawl. It begins:
The protagonist encounters many strange and dangerous creatures, including a shadow that follows his own (a relative of the creature from that other story maybe?) and a walking suit of chainmail, but then he sees the mummy:
Other good D&Dish tales that I have discovered of his include The Coming of the White Worm, The Beast of Averoigne, The Black Abbot of Puthuum, The Charnel God, Seven Geases, and many others. I also noticed that the Genus Loci became an epic level monster in 3rd edition D&D, but the most Ashton references are of course to be found in Castle Amber. Say, that one had brain eaters and a corpse colossus that got put into TELHB too. I loved that supplement.
Further reading on Smith. And his works collected here.