Inspiration and Military Reading Lists

RPG Blog Carnival June 2010, hosted at Campaign Mastery, is on inspiration. So I’m going to look at some of the things that inspire me. I’ve already talked about nonfiction books as an inspiration source, but I’m going to narrow my focus even further: books from military reading lists.

Yes, members of the American military (at least, I can guarantee you the Marines and the Navy) have booklists. They’re usually divided by rank, though some titles appear on multiple ranks’ lists; in the case of the Navy, they’re also divided by the kind of information they give. Most of them are nonfiction, but not all—there are a number of fiction titles, and even some science fiction, on the Marine and Navy lists (both include Ender’s Game, and I think I saw Starship Troopers on the Navy list.) Similarly, most are about wars, military management, and/or soldiering, but some, like the novel A Bell for Adano, are only tangentially related to war, and some, like Friedman’s The World Is Flat, only reference war in terms of what it has to do with world history. I myself have been working through the lists bit by bit, mostly in audio format so as to brighten up my commute, in order to be able to actually recommend books to visiting service members.

So what kinds of ideas can you get from that? Let me see:

One of my biggest sources of inspiration lately has been Barbara Tuchman’s Guns of August. The book itself is about the lead-up to, and the first month of, World War I, including a lot about who did what why. The first couple of chapters are a brilliantly-colored procession through the European political figures of the time—perfect for getting into vision for anywhere with the same sorts of royals. Then it gets into the secret alliances—by the time I was done with that couple of chapters, I was brimming with ideas for how to actually execute a slow spiral into massive multi-sided conflict that had already taken place a little ways offstage in my game. And some of the later chapters gave me the material that coalesced into a recent Generic Villain post.

More directly applicable (eventually, if I’m lucky) was Thomas Friedman’s From Beirut to Jerusalem. It’s got some good stuff on international relations and Israel’s attitude towards the world and its own history, but what really got me thinking were the earlier chapters on the civil war in Lebanon, particularly the ones that dealt with the people who weren’t actually involved but had to deal with it anyway. By the time I’d finished with the holiday dinner interrupted by a firefight outside (“Would you like to be served now, or wait until the ceasefire?”), I had even more ideas for the conflict which is still currently offstage.

Most of the others I’ve read focus on direct fighting, not quite as useful for me. I’m sure it’ll come in handy later, though. Just about everything I read does.

The take-home lesson? One person’s required reading is another’s inspiration!

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Blog Carnival Wrap-Up – What Inspires Your Games? | Campaign Mastery
  2. A Comparison of Anachronisms (or, A Tomato in Sparta) | Exchange of Realities
  3. Reading Through the Ranks: I’m Staying With My Boys | Exchange of Realities

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