L: L is for “Lankhmar”

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a-to-z-letters-lLankhmar is a fictional city in the Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. It is situated on the world of Nehwon, just west of the Great Salt Marsh and east of the River Hlal.

Lankhmar – City of Adventure was a supplement produced by TSR for their Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D) role-playing game containing maps, descriptions of the city areas, game statistics for various prominent characters from the stories, and ideas for adventures in and around the city.

In 1937, Leiber and Harry Fischer created a wargame set within the world of Nehwon, which Fischer had helped to create. This game initially used the “Lahkmar” spelling, and was played on a large three-dimensional board. Later, they created a board game called Lankhmar which was released by TSR in 1976. The new version is played on a smaller, conventional board, and features elements that had become common in wargames during the intervening years, such as hexagon shaped spaces and randomized combat results.

Lankhmar is richly described as a populous, labyrinthine city rife with corruption; it is decadent and squalid in roughly equal parts and said to be so shrouded by smog that the stars are rarely sighted (the city’s alternate name is “The City of Seventy Score Thousand Smokes”). Located next to the Inner Sea, Lankhmar is visited by ships from across Nehwon and is the starting point for Fafhrd and the Mouser’s many sea voyages.

The city is ostensibly ruled by an Overlord and a nobility. The Thieves’ Guild is influential, too, and controls Lankhmar’s abundant criminal element, with the notable exceptions of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser.

Swords and Deviltry, the first short story col...
Swords and Deviltry, the first short story collection exclusively featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Streets in Lankhmar are often evocatively named (the Thieves’ Guild is located on Cheap Street near Death’s Alley and Murder Alley). Commonly referenced locations are the Silver Eel Tavern, behind which is Bone Alley, and the Golden Lamprey. The main meeting place is the Plaza of Dark Delights, which is the setting of the popular story The Bazaar of the Bizarre. The religious center of Lankhmar is the Street of the Gods, along which many cults seek to arrange themselves in order of popularity. The true gods of Lankhmar, however, are feared rather than worshiped; these “Black Bones” occasionally leave their temple to fight threats to the city—or threats to their own place as preeminent religion within the city.

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