Thieves’ World® fantasy series launched the shared world anthology subgenre with the release of the first anthology in 1979. It was immediately recognized worthwhile being nominated the next year for the World Fantasy Award – Collection.
The original series consisted of twelve anthologies, including stories by some of the leading and most well-known authors of Science Fiction and Fantasy of the time. These included the likes of Poul Anderson, John Brunner, Andrew J. Offutt, C.J. Cherryh, and Joe Haldeman.
The alchemy that produced Thieves’ World® had four components. Robert Asprin, Lynn Abbey, Gordon R Dickson, and ample amounts of wine. The laboratory was the Boston Sheraton’s Mermaid Restaurant. The year was 1978.
Like characters in a D&D adventure, they started out in a tavern drinking mead. The three, all award-winning authors (but not back then), concocted a scheme for fun, fame, and profit (mostly fun at the time) and implemented audacious tactics that lead to the creation of a successful anthology series that ran throughout the 1980s and ultimately sold millions of copies.
Similarly, the recruiting of authors to contribute to the anthologies, succeeded by the same means as the cementing of an RPG player group – the idea for a character. Consistently the to-be authors of the Thieves’ World® anthologies would say they “didn’t have the time to participate”. Then the idea for a character would hit them – and they were hooked. All in all Robert Asprin was able to recruit six more writers that delivered stories for the first anthology in addition to his and Lynn Abbey’s.
Thieves’ World® speaks for itself as a premier setting for an RPG as it attracted some of the best and brightest role-playing game designers ever.
The first RPG product based on Thieves’ World® was the Thieves’ World® Complete Sanctuary Adventure Pack by Chaosium which won the Origin’s Award for “Best Roleplaying Adventure of 1981”. The credits list for the product includes a powerhouse of designers, almost all awarding winning (four of which have been inducted into The Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design Hall of Fame).
In 2005 Green Ronin published RPG material for Thieves’ World® based on the 3.5 version of Dungeons & Dragons. Again, the best and brightest participated, include award winning game designer Owen K.C. Stephens, award winning game designer Rob J. Schwalb (who worked on all five of the Thieves’ World® products from Green Ronin), and award winning game designer and award winning prolific author Aaron S. Rosenberg.
The captain at the helm of ‘all things canonical’ is Lynn Abbey, sole owner of Thieves’ World® for well over 20 years.