Lankhmar levels 2: Pulgh, the unpublished character

In a previous post, I asked, who is this “Pulgh” who gets a stat block in the Fritz Leiber section of Deities and Demigods, but “does not appear in any of the currently published works about Nehwon”?

It turns out that Pulgh is a character from the LANKHMAR board game, designed by Fritz Leiber and published by TSR in 1976. The game is from 2 to 4 players, where each player takes either Fafhrd, the Grey Mouser, Pulgh, or another hero, Movarl. So that’s where Pulgh comes from – he’s a board game piece from a game published by TSR four years beforehand. Since Leiber wrote the board game, Pulgh is in the peculiar situation of being author-created canon who is not referred to (or, at least, has a minimal or questionable presence in the books. I don’t buy this “Pulgh is the cousin of Pulg” nonsense.)

The story goes back a little further than 1976, when “Lankhmar” was published though. From wikipedia: “In 1937, Leiber and his college friend Harry Otto Fischer created a complex wargame set within the world of Nehwon, which Fischer had helped to create. Later, they created a simplified board game entitled simply “Lankhmar” which was released by TSR in 1976.”

1937! That’s less than 25 years after H. G. Well’s Little Wars and 15 years before the founding of Avalon Hill. I wonder what that game looked like. I bet it was very different from the board game published in 1976.

So the timeline seems to be:

1930s: Leiber and Fischer create Fafhrd, Gray Mouser, Pulgh, and the world of Nehwon.
1937: Leiber and Fischer make the Nehwon boardgame.
1939: Leiber sells his first Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser story.
1939-1975: Second World War, Korean War, Vietnam, all our parents are born and grow up
1976: TSR publishes a modified version of the 1937 Lankhmar board game.
1980: TSR publishes Deities and Demigods, statting up Pulgh from the board game.

Do you think all of Leiber’s Nehwon stories could be classified as fiction about a game, like the Drizzt novels or “Wing Commander: Heart of the Tiger”?


2 Responses to “Lankhmar levels 2: Pulgh, the unpublished character”

  1. […] Scrolls of Lankhmar has a nice post about my discussion of Lankhmar and early D&D. […]

  2. Over at the Scrolls, the conversation continues about the Pulgh character. We’re starting to wonder if the Pulgh from Deities & Demigods, published in 1980, becomes the Pulgh Arthonax the Overlord of Lankhmar in The Curse of the Smalls and the Stars, published in 1983! The history of the character, Pulgh, may be more complicated that previously thought!

Leave a Reply