Appendix N

As a gamer and speculative fiction enthusiast, I’m intrigued by the legendary Appendix N found at the back of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide. Gary Gygax was a voracious reader, and his reading preferences impacted the directions where his fantasy-based wargame went. Namely, its ascendency from a traditional medieval wargame with orcs into nerddom’s greatest and most enduring hobby.

Probably the most obvious influences include how magic works in Vance’s Dying Earth world, magic items and historical scope from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the gritty pseudo-historic peoples of Howard’s Hyborian Age. Put Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in Hyboria, populate it with Lord of the Rings-inspired elves, orcs, and dwarves, and you’ve got the basics of D&D.

It’s also worth looking at what’s included and what isn’t. Clark Ashton Smith, for one; granted, his reputation is largely a part of the pulp revival starting in the ’70s (and again in the ’90s), but he’s the vital third leg of the Weird Tales trifecta. Why mention Frederic Browne, who as far as I’ve read has mostly done (admittedly superb) science-fiction mystery tales, without mentioning C.L. Moore or Edmond Hamilton? Why Bellairs’ Face in the Frost and not LeGuin’s Wizard of Earthsea? And where the hell is H. Rider Haggard?

Seeing Fred Saberhagan and Gardner Fox on the list is mystifying to me; it’s like Gygax went to the local bookstore to see what random, applicable titles he could find. Saberhagan’s entry (Changeling Earth) is post-apocalyptic sword-and-socery, so popular that it hasn’t been printed since the ’70s. Fox wrote what can favorably be called “Conan pastiches” and unfavorably called “sloppy Conan clones.” Others, like Fletcher Pratt and Stanley Weinbaum, have also faded into relative obscurity.

Also interesting: consider the influences on the game since Gygax stopped being the influential factor. Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, for sure; Frank Herbert’s Dune, arguably; Glen Cook’s Black Company; Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire; Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun; Terry Pratchett; Anne Rice (Vampire: the Masquerade); William Gibson (Cyberpunk 2020); Neil Gaiman (Scion); China Mieville, in an interesting case of the inspired inspiring the original. Star Wars and Monty Python. Fallout, Doctor Who, westerns, Mike Mignola, Heavy Metal. (The magazine.) Led Zeppelin and Iron Maiden.

In any case, the list, in all its historical glory, copied from the old AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. It appears in the original’s Giant Fucking Block-o-Text format. I’ve read about half the entries, if you include the names as a single entry. Expect reviews as the years progress and I read or re-read the list.

APPENDIX N: Inspirational and Educational Reading

Inspiration for all the fantasy work I have done stems directly from the love my father showed when I was a tad, for he spent many hours telling me stories he made up as he went along, tales of cloaked old men who could grant wishes, of magic rings and enchanted swords, or wicked sorcerors and dauntless swordsmen. Then too, countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect. Science fiction, fantasy, and horror movies were a big influence. In fact, all of us tend to get ample helpings of fantasy when we are very young from fairy tales such as those written by the Brothers Grimm and Andrew Lang. This often leads to reading books of mythology, paging through bestiaries, and consultation of compilations of the myths of various lands and peoples. Upon such a base I built my interest in fantasy, being an avid reader of all science fiction and fantasy literature since 1950. The following authors were of particular inspiration to me. In some cases I cite specific works, in others, I simply recommend all of their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as any other imaginative writing or screenplay, you will be able to pluck kernels from which will grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, R. E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, H. P. Lovecraft, and A. Merritt; but all of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you.

– E. Gary Gygax, December 1979, AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, p. 224

13 thoughts on “Appendix N”

  1. I haven’t heard of Appendix N before, a friend of mine told me about it and I found this post after Googling around. Thanks for the great post, I will be checking out the authors and works mentioned (I know some but not a lot of them)


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