Thoughts on Lankhmar as a Campaign Setting


I first encountered Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar in the 1980s in the pages of TSR's Deities & Demigods book for AD&D followed by their Lankhmar: City of Adventure sourcebook. I had a pretty difficult time finding collections of Leiber's stories - my recollection is they either were out of print or not at my local Waldenbooks, in these days before Amazon. It was shortly after I graduated college that White Wolf released a series of hardcovers compilations that I finally managed to read all of the stories - and it's been an awfully long time, it might be time for a reread.

Lankhmar has found its way into a number of RPG properties. TSR released a number of Lankhnar products - AD&D wasn't a horrible match for the setting but I feel it needed a bit more tweaking than they gave it. Mongoose Publishing did two versions of Lankhmar for RuneQuest but to be honest, I was less than impressed by those efforts, though I think RuneQuest is a very good match for the setting. Currently there is a Savage Worlds adaptation from Pinnacle Entertainment as well as a number of Dungeon Crawl Classics Lankhmar adventures plus there is a Kickstarter for a full Lankhmar boxed set going on at the time of this writing (alas,with a delivery date some 16 months away).

I think Lankhmar makes for a fantastic setting for RPGs, whether as a straight adaptation or as an inspiration. Leiber himself was a gamer, creating, with his friend Harry Otto Fischer, a wargame set in Nehwon back in 1937. THis became the basis for the 1970s TSR game Lankhmar.

Our protagonists, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, seem a lot more real than many heroes of fantasy fiction. They are definitely of the "wine, women, and song" camp of adventurers. They come into riches only to lose them. They both possess a dry wit and a tendency to get themselves deep into trouble before just managing to get out of it. While they have their specialties - Fafhrd is more the warrior and Grey Mouser more the thief, both are broadly competent - as they need to be, with most tales centered around just the two of them.

While I'm greatly looking forward to the DCC realization of Lankhmar, I also think a game like Fate or Apocalypse World, could offer an interesting take on games set in Lankhmar. I can practically hear aspects and complications coming into play as the two go on adventures (and misadventures).  

While Lankhmar and its world make for an interesting setting, one could quite easily be inspired by these works and make one's own setting inspired by the tropes of Lankhmar, with various supernatural and heroic dials set according to taste.

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