I will not take any credit for discovering these, just pleasure in finally knowing the truth. I’ve read too many blogs and books to source them all, but if you are curious, let me know and I’ll gather the links for you.
Let’s start with the Drow. They draw inspiration from the Norse svartalfar. It took my own research to see that they also share some of the supernatural abilities of the Draugar. The very same inspirations stand behind Tolkien’s orcs, although he was well read in the elder literature and was aware of the influences upon which he drew. Another blog reminded me that Tolkien’s orcs were originally Elves corrupted by Melkor. It was an origin story he later changed, but it was one vision. It has been said that Gary Gygax neither liked nor fully understood The Lord of the Rings. The form the Drow took is a clear demonstration of that. There’s also the fact that Gygax drew inspiration from myriad other sources in their creation, most notably The Shadow People by Margaret St. Clair and the John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Swap them out for Orcs for gamers tired of Gygaxian Drow. One can also see something of the Deodand of The Dying Earth by Jack Vance in their makeup. Either one would make an interesting change for gamers tired of playing Black Martians dressed up as elves. No, I’m not kidding. On the other hand, playing up the Martian angle might be a way of breathing fresh life into a game that has somewhat lost touch with its science fantasy roots. You’ll find the tools for custom races in the Dungeon Master’s Guide for those of you interested in crafting a home brew campaign. For those interested in exploring Barsoom as a fully fledged RPG, you can pick up the John Carter of Mars game from Mophidius.
One of the strangest developments in Roleplaying Game history has been the evolution of the Kobold. Early editions utilized the well known folklore. It’s the less well known variety that informs their portrayal afterwards. Although, as I have learned, it’s a curious mishmash of elements that has confused players. Dungeons and Dragons sufferers from a peculiar habit of anthropomorphism, possibly a legacy of the Appendix N literature. Not everything in folklore and myth was so clear cut. That’s the difference between myth and the literature it inspires. So where does that leave our funny little dragon men?
As it turns out, they’re not so funny after all, but they’re not men. There was a form of kobold known as the drak, drake, drachen, or puk. This is the fiery kobold. It takes various forms, but for our purposes in tracing its D&D lineage, it appears in folklore as a miniature wyvern. It also appears as a flying fiery stripe. The little dragon ignites in flight. It’s a mischievous little beast that steals from its neighbors and brings its plunder to the home of its human hosts. The creature living underground in Dungeons & Dragons straddles the fence between this and the wicked old gnomes of the mine. The closest thing to the folklore in the game is the Pseudodragon. Do your own research. You may find much to inspire your own campaign or writing.
That’s it for now.
Have a great day.