If there is one book that has influenced me when I picked it up at sixteen, Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas would be that book. Not only packed with action but also full of fairly human emotions. The perfect reading material for a budding writer. I remember the excitement well. How will they get out of this trap? A fair amount of it deals with D'Artagnan trying to find money to eat and all the tricks he uses. Really funny but also very eye opening.
I know my players have accused me of never giving them any money as reward. That they had to take their loot from what was not anchored to the walls.
The three musketeers taught me that money is valuable and that people would rather barter.
The Kid in me
How could my sixteen year old self not identify with the struggles? The boy who comes to town and who gets into three duels on day one. Each one hour apart from the others. Yes, with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. The story and plot unfolds at a speed someone likened to 24. The queen's jewels, the major focus of most movies is resolved around chapters 25-30 of the 70 chapters epic.
In some way, we are effectively told of a campaign. Because D'Artagnan starts off as a snot-nosed kid and grows into a man as the plot twists, turns, leaps and bounds. So that by the end of the book, he really is a seasoned adventurer. I would love to have a character live the same kind of adventures as D'Artagnan.
Not only did this book turn the spark of interest in history into a bonfire, it also opened my mind up to a new genre I never knew existed until then: historical fiction. Early on in this blog, I wrote a number of posts about historical campaigns and how to bring them to life (this posts and its complement post).
The idea to mix of gaming and history stems from this book. At least for me. Although the swashbuckling action is great, the interactions and character development are really the core of the book.
Another important lesson it taught me is on having a villain whose goal is not only the destruction of the world or killing the PCs for some nebulous reason. The Cardinal de Richelieu is such a villain. He opposes the queen but is a staunch supporter of the king and royal power. He understands that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar and he uses every tool at his disposal to win. He is part time patron part time enemy.
Though reading the book you never get the feeling that most movies give him that he is a villain. He is a man of conviction with clear goals, but not really a villain. Not in a Manichean term. Shades of grey really apply here.
To this day, whenever I think of lawful evil his portrait comes to mind.
Though the story of D'Artagnan, the book really gives us an overview of that slice of time of 1620-25. We don't just have the low gentlemen serving with the musketeers, but also their servants, the king-queen-cardinal, some common folk. In short, a whole piece of the world comes alive before us.