My Appendix N
The original AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide is often considered one of the best role playing game books ever published. It isn’t that the rules presented are perfect, but that Gary Gygax presents his reasoning and ideas, and he encourages the reader to build his own world and rules the same way. It’s a good book, and I was very happy to be reminded of this about a year ago when I got a new copy of it and started to flip through it again.
Its “Appendix N” is an important part of it, though it’s less than half a page. It lists “inspirational and educational reading” based on the books that most inspired Gary Gygax when he helped give D&D its original character. As I’ve gotten more and more interested in reading “old school” D&D blogs, I’ve realized more and more how few of those books I’ve read. I never worried much about that, because I had my own imagination from which to run a game.
Lately, I’ve been reading more and more of the authors listed in Appendix N, and what I’ve found is that reading them provides a surprising amount of insight into why D&D had many of its original content. These days “D&D adventure” almost seems like it can stand on its own as a genre. It implies ancient civilizations, epic-scale conflicts, and grand-fated heroes. That’s what I’d often thought D&D should be, and went with it. Many of the things in earlier D&D struck me a misfits, and strangely enough, I never really tried to figure out what was wrong. I just figured the newer stuff had refined the game to match the intent. I didn’t realize that the goal posts had changed.
Early D&D was emulating the “Sword and Sorcery” genre of fiction. These are generally picaresque stories in which self-interested (but sort of lovable) antiheroes kill stuff for gold or power. Plenty of these are very good! Not only that, but I think they’re a much easier target for a RPG than epic high fantasy!
I’ve been pondering what writing would go into an Appendix N for my games. I’d also want to include non-books because plenty of TV shows and movies have had a big influence on how I build my games. Right now, I think it’d look something like this:
- Adventure Time (cartoon)
- Brin, David. The Postman
- Chambers, Robert William. The King in Yellow
- Deadwood (TV series)
- Effinger, George Alec. When Gravity Fails
- Farscape (TV series)
- Firefly (TV series)
- Leiber, Fritz. The Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories
- Lem, Stanislaw. Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
- Lovecraft, H.P. most especially The Shadow Over Innsmouth
- Miller, Walter. A Canticle for Leibowitz
- Wolfe, Gene. The Book of the New Sun
- Vance, Jack. The Dying Earth