Written by Joseph Bingaman
As a RPG designer and full-time DM, I draw inspiration from many sources. I’ve even found inspiration in NCIS (a Tony DiNozzo-like NPC.) So when I was asked to write a 7 of the Best, I was honored, but at the same time confused, as I have a long list of inspiration going back to my early childhood. It’s taken me 24 days to whittle down the list, but here are my 7 of the Best, in chronological order of how I discovered them.
Star Wars: A New Hope
This is where storytelling all started for me. George Lucas weaved an epic tale of Good vs. Evil, with a mysterious magical Force guiding them. Han Solo’s swashbuckling anti-hero and Luke’s naïve, farm boy innocence drew me in, while the mystical Old Ben Kenobi was what I pictured every wise man to be for years to come. Meanwhile, the sharpness of the Empire’s uniforms and the structure of their routines taught me how militaries acted towards orders and also gave me an easy way to understand World War II Nazi Germany at a much younger age than most in my generation.
Dungeons & Dragons: The Animated Series
Now I KNOW I saw the First Edition books at my grandmother’s house as a kid (though both my uncles deny playing D&D), but this cartoon is what caused the name “Dungeons & Dragons” to stick in my head. Every Saturday morning, I watched faithfully as Hank, Eric, Diana, Presto, Sheila, Bobby, and Uni would be sent on a quest by Dungeon Master to prevent something, usually caused by Venger, and try to get home. I learned about sacrifice, ingenuity, and overcoming obstacles from just the cartoon…not knowing that the game itself would teach me more later on. 25 years later, I bought the DVD box set to introduce my twins to D&D. Now 9, they are about to get their first sets of dice.
Marvel Star Wars issue 96: Duel with a Dark Lady
Of course, as with all Star Wars fans, I ate up everything Star Wars in the early 1980s. This particular issue, taking place just after the events of Return of the Jedi, revealed the identity of the evil Lumiya to be Luke’s thought-dead friend Shira Brie. This taught me that feelings of betrayal can cause even the most pure person to seek revenge against the one who wronged them, whether they truly wronged them or not.
What else do I need to say? This movie taught me how mazes were an effective tool to confuse people. Throughout the movie, you see Jennifer Connelly’s character Sarah become distraught and ready to give up because of the labyrinth…until a driving force inside her pushes her further to rescue her infant brother.
I did not see this on its initial theatrical run…I was 3 at the time. I discovered this on TBS around 1991, where B-movies went to die. I never saw Beastmaster as a Conan rip-off, or a bad B-movie. I saw it as a great story. Dar’s epic tale is one involving a prophecy, a Big Bad Evil Guy, witches, strange creatures, and animal companions. It definitely fit into my mindset, as my mother bought me my first D&D box set a few years prior for Christmas. Maybe it was secretly SHE who had the books at my grandmother’s house…
It, written by Stephen King
A recurring evil. Seven chosen heroes. Unsolved murders. This novel, which I first discovered through the made-for-tv film (Tim Curry will ALWAYS be Pennywise!), blew my 13 year old mind. Every time I pick it up, I become engrossed, and tune out the rest of the world. This is after owning 11 separate copies of the 1,138 page paperback and having them fall apart from reread after reread. I nearly have it memorized front to back. The irony behind this: I actually am scared of clowns, ever since my third birthday. Maybe that’s part of why I love it so much, the thrill factor. But really, the whole aspect of the Turtle and the Other, the magic of seven, then six, then five, that all brought it together for me.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
My dad introduced me to Britcom in the early 90s via PBS, where I had seen Doctor Who years before (another influence…why can’t this be 8 of the Best?). After he saw I enjoyed the humor, he went and picked up Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I loved it, both for the era content of medieval fantasy and for the humor. It showed me that not all fantasy has to be serious, save-the-princess, stop-the-monster and can sometimes be downright silly in nature. It also helped me understand jokes other gamers would say that I kind of laughed nervously at, because I had no concept of “Ni!” or “’Tis but a scratch” before seeing this.