Ten Things About The War Manuals (and me)

orcsHappy Publication Day to Orcs War Fighting Manual! Gollancz is delighted to be publishing this series of war-fighting manauls which begins with Orcs. We asked the brilliant Den Patrick to write a special publication day blog post about the behind the scenes making of Orcs War-Fighting Manual

I wrote the elf book first. I thought the elves would be the easiest, but it stands to reason the elves would have the oldest recorded history in a Fantasy setting. Their timeline formed the backbone of the world, called Naer Evain.

The orcs in Naer Evain are nomadic with a Mongol influence. Orcs who are too wounded to travel live at the Great Meets and considered akin to lesser races (everybody else). The orcs were the most fun to write.

I wanted to give the dwarves a twist, so their creation myth declares they were created by dragons, which explains their fiery tempers and love of gold. Dwarves also enshrine a few elements of the British class system, which is always good fodder for comedy and resentment.

Creating a classic High Fantasy world from scratch was a joy. I set myself homework – namely reading the Prose Edda and The Hobbit. Many people don’t realise elves and dwarves come from Scandinavian mythology, anymore than they realise Hobbits are protected under copyright. I also spent plenty of time reading Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, because it would have been criminal not to.

One of the nicer things about this project was getting emails from Andrew James, the illustrator. AJ and I go back a few years it was a delight to see him bring to life the many denizens of Naer Evain. He works hard and he works fast – admirable qualities in a illustrator.

The elves in Naer Evain have influences from Zen Buddhism, but also from Irish mythology. I couldn’t think of a more unlikely mash-up but I think it works quite well. Many Irish words were bastardized or borrowed in the process of creating the elves of Naer Evain.

I love a Monster Manual. For those not in the know, a monster manual is a  compendium of beasts for a role playing game. The Iron Kingdom’s Monsternomicon (Vol I & II) are superb, including many monsters from European folk tales. That said, my favourite monster is still the Vargouille from D&D – winged heads that glow with spectral light and paralyze with a shriek.

A chap called Stuart Boshier was my first Dungeons and Dragons Game Master. We played 3rd Edition in the Living Greyhawk setting. I was a multi class Rogue/Fighter (what else?) Stu based a campaign on the the film The 13th Warrior, which was suitably epic.

My mum cleaned house for a retired Headmaster when I was in my early teens. We called him ‘Pop’, and it was he who gave me a thesaurus one birthday. I took to reading it for fun in the way of obsessive teenage boys, which led to my love of words.

The war manuals were a huge amount of fun to write. I know I have three ready made world bibles if ever chose to whose to write a novel in that world. They’re also great for anyone wanting a new setting for their role playing campaign.

Orcs War Fighting Manual is out now where all books are sold. Look for the Elves War-Fighting Manual (19th September) and the Dwarves War-Fighting Manual (17th October) coming soon to bookshops and online.