Monday, June 28, 2010

Appendix N 2.0

Appendix N gets a lot of play round here, as I consider it an important key to understanding Gary Gygax's vision of Dungeons & Dragons. Recently, I've been reading Gary's Mythus RPG, with special attention given to volume 2 of that game, Mythus Magick (possession of which I owe to Norman Harman -- thank you). In the end of that weighty tome, Gygax included a section of the bibliography entitled "General Fantasy Fiction Reading by Author," which lists the "author's favorite authors or inspirational sources."

This list is slightly different than the one included in the Dungeon Masters Guide, being somewhat more extensive. It's also noteworthy in that Gygax includes one or more asterisks after several authors' names, An asterisk denotes "a particularly high recommendation," with more asterisks indicating greater fondness than those with fewer (or no) asterisks. Let's take a look at the authors included in the Mythus Magick list (which dates from 1992, thirteen years after the publication of the DMG). Bolded entries indicate authors not found in the DMG list. Asterisks are as presented in Mythus Magick.
  • Abbey, Lynn
  • Anderson, Poul ****
  • Anthony, Piers ****
  • Asprin, Robert
  • Barker, M.A.R.
  • Bellairs, John
  • Brackett, Leigh
  • Brooks, Terry
  • Burroughs, Edgar Rice
  • Carter, Lin
  • Chalker, Jack L.
  • Cherryh, C.J.
  • de Camp, L. Sprague
  • de Camp, L. Sprague & Pratt, Fletcher ****
  • Eddings, David
  • Farmer, Phillip J.
  • Fox, Gardner
  • Gardner, Craig Shaw
  • Gygax, Gary
  • Haggard, H. Rider ***
  • Hambly, Barbara
  • Hickman, Tracy & Weiss, Margaret
  • Howard, Robert E. *****
  • Lanier, Sterling ***
  • Leiber, Fritz ***
  • McCaffrey, Anne
  • Merritt, A. *****
  • Moore, C.L.
  • Moorcock, Michael ****
  • Offutt, Andrew J.
  • Pratchett, Terry
  • Saberhagen, Fred ****
  • St. Clair, Margaret
  • Sims, John
  • Springer, Nancy
  • Stasheff, Christopher
  • Stewart, Mary
  • Tolkien, J.R.R.
  • Vance, Jack ****
  • Wagner, Karl
  • Weinbaum, Stanley
  • Williamson, Jack
  • Weiss, Margaret
  • Zelazny, Roger ****
Comparing the two lists is an interesting exercise. The 1992 list includes a great many more -- mostly lesser, in my opinion -- authors but most of those authors seem to have had little influence on Gygax. In the DMG, he claims that "the most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, and A. Merritt." In the new list, de Camp & Pratt (who are always linked), REH, Leiber, Vance, and Merritt all still rank highly in his estimation, while Lovecraft is entirely absent (an oversight perhaps?), along with Frederic Brown, August Derleth, Lord Dunsany, Andre Norton, and Manly Wade Wellman.

On the other hand, Poul Anderson, Piers Anthony, H. Rider Haggard, Sterling Lanier, Michael Moorcock, Fred Saberhagen, and Roger Zelazny have all been elevated to the level of significant influences on him. Some of these names make sense to me. I have always felt that Anderson's influence was overlooked, in part becaue Moorcock's reformulation of his Law vs. Chaos scheme is more widely known among gamers. Likewise, I grow ever more convinced that H. Rider Haggard and other Victorian adventure writers were a seminal and unacknowledged influence on D&D. The others strike me as a bit odd but Gygax has been consistent in naming them as influences, so perhaps I'm merely missing obvious points of contact between their literary output and Gygax's fantasies.

The only name missing from the 1992 list that I expected to be there is Glen Cook, whom Gygax had championed as providing a terrific literary model for D&D since his Black Company appeared in 1984. Like Lovecraft, I suspect this is an oversight rather than a deliberate omission. It's also worth noting that Gygax includes his own name along with those other fantasy authors, which can be interpreted as arrogance, a wry joke, or even a commentary on the extent to which Gygax, like D&D itself, came to be chasing his own tail when it came to creativity.

31 comments:

  1. I just read some Chalker last summer, and though my every fantasy instinct at the beginning was to roll my eyes, I became a fan by the end.

    I agree with you on Haggard and the Victorian adventure writers. When I find some time, I'm going to explore those writers and see if I can't work out some simple house rules for using OD&D in a Victorian (not steam punk) setting.

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  2. The only two multiple asterisk names that weren't on the DMG list are Piers Anthony and H. Rider Haggard.

    Much of Anthony's most famous fantasy work (Xanth) came out after the DMG did, thus explaining his absence from the older list. While I don't think his Xanth books are particularly D&D-ish (or really even particularly good), I certainly see some similarities between Anthony's and Gygax's senses of humor (puns abound) and can certainly see why Gary liked Anthony's work.

    I can't imagine that Gygax wouldn't have been familiar with Haggard's work as of the writing of the DMG, and since it fits right in with much of the other authors in the DMG appendix N (esp. Burroughs), I have to believe his omission from the DMG list was just an oversight.

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  3. I am entirely ignorant when it comes to Haggard, but now that the the connection is being made, I will have to pick up a copy of King Solomon's Mines.

    Was never a big fan of Saberhagen.

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  4. I wonder why Alexandre Dumas never appears on any "Appendix N" lists?

    En Garde RPG seems an obvious nod to Dumas and the swashbuckling adventures.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this it is informative.

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  6. Part of this is because Dave Newton is also consulted.

    Regarding Piers Anthony, Gary was very influenced by the Split Infinity book and the rest in the series, as Gary thought of it as the perfect way to handle a multi-genre campaign.

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  7. Piers Anthony? That hack... at least CJ Cherryh got a shout-out.

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  8. I'm surprised that more people don't sit up and notice Terry Prachett, especially since he's on the list. Wonderful sense of humor. And quite possibly the most interesting explanation of how a fantasy world actually works. He even has 'levels' of wizardy, his elves and trolls are a bit different (thankfully, in my mind). For those not accustomed to Discworld, I would suggest skipping the first two, and coming back to them at a latter point. However, the Discworld is the single best example of how things SHOULD work in a fantasy world. I need to stop there, cause I'm just going on about it.

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  9. Too bad Gary didn't mention Tim Powers at all. The Anubis Gates just might be the best fantasy novel of the past thirty years. That book is damn near perfect.

    I was also surprised he didn't mention Cook- he wrote a glowing review of the first "Black Company" book, to the effect that it seemed to be the perfect example of D&D fiction.

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  10. Infamous,

    I can't agree with the notion that the way Pratchett describes things in his Discworld books is how a fantasy world should work. His is but one interpretation, one that some people (though not myself) find amusing but it's far from the only one and definitely not the sort of interpretation anyone looking to present a serious (or even semi-serious) world is likely to take.

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  11. JRT,

    So the list isn't the sole work of Gygax? If that's true, it's somewhat reassuring since I must admit I found it hard to imagine that Gary was a big fan of Terry Brooks and Anne McCaffrey. :)

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  12. While I don't think his Xanth books are particularly D&D-ish (or really even particularly good), I certainly see some similarities between Anthony's and Gygax's senses of humor (puns abound) and can certainly see why Gary liked Anthony's work.

    That's a good observation and one I probably overlooked given my own hatred of puns.

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  13. I just read some Chalker last summer, and though my every fantasy instinct at the beginning was to roll my eyes, I became a fan by the end.

    You poor, poor man ;-)

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  14. > while Lovecraft is entirely absent (an oversight perhaps?)

    Lovecraft was more an influence on Rob Kuntz than EGG and into D&D via that route, anyhow.

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  15. I was happy to see Barbara Hambly on the list. I enjoyed her fantasy novels, and her "Those Who Hunt The Night" is one of the best modern vampire novels I've read. Much better then angst-laden emo-dreck of recent years.

    I've only read Cherryh's Chanur novels and "Merovingen Nights." What has she written that would be an influence on a fantasy game? (Okay, Merovingen Nights might be. In fact, it was a vague inspiration when I was writing Marienburg for WFRP. But I wouldn't call it fantasy.)

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  16. I get the sense that this list is heavily shaped by the availability of books at the time, which is the probable reason why the pulp texts were dropped. You simply couldn't get most of them in the 90's.

    Whereas most of the new authors were either being printed, or reprinted, by then.

    Although, as you say, there are important omissions.

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  17. I'm glad that H. Rider Haggard and M. A. R. Barker are on that list.

    It's too bad, though, that Clark Ashton Smith still didn't make it on.

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  18. What I find most interesting here is the lack of asterisks by ERB's name despite the clear and explicitly acknowledged heavy influence of John Carter and Barsoom over early OD&D. This seems to me to represent a maturation of Gygax's conception of gameplay beyond a simplistic, linear, episodic style with a mere overarching theme as organization (in the mode of ERB's Barsoomian stories) to a more complex, nuanced, character-driven style of play embedded in a richly detailed world which exists beyond its interactions with the player characters.

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  19. I always thought these sort of lists were rediculous. They remind me of those music magazine lists of "Top 100 Greatest Bands of All Time" - I mean...who's deciding this? Gygax? Hermes Trismegistus? It's the sort of thing teenagers indulge in during study hall

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  20. James, while I know that Newton did a lot of the fleshing out of Mythus Magick from Gary's notes, I'm not entirely sure of the list.

    What I am sure of is that this wasn't just a list of Gary's favorite authors, but authors that are inspirational sources for the RPG in general. The asterisks are for his favorite ones, but two things to keep in mind.

    1) This isn't D&D, so there were other influences on this game. Expecting the exact same ones listed IMO is an exercise in failure.

    2) Gary includes "General Fantasy Fiction by Author", so this is a list of books that help inspire campaigns, regardless of Gary's personal opinions--his opinions are represented by the asterisks. Note popular writers like Cherry, Brooks, Hickman/Weiss, and his own. I'll bet if a few more years had passed Salvatore would also be on this list.

    3) I think Gary might have liked Brooks because of his humour.

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  21. Anthony,
    CJ Cherryh has several novels of fantasy interest: the Morgaine books (Gate of Ivrel, Well of Shiuan, Fires of Azeroth); the Arafel books (most easily available now as The Dreaming Tree); and of course the Fortress sereis, though that appeared later than Gygax's list. Oh, also The Paladin, which is now hard to find.

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  22. I can't bear Barbara Hambly's fantasy books at all, but her historical detective stories are all pretty good and the two vampire novels Anthony mentioned are also excellent. I don't normally read much detective fiction, but her Detective January books (set in 19th century New Orleans) have me hooked.

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  23. Lovecraft was more an influence on Rob Kuntz than EGG and into D&D via that route, anyhow.

    That's certainly true of Clark Ashton Smith, whom Gygax apparently hadn't read until Kuntz turned him on to his stories. But HPL? Gary specifically notes that Lovecraft was one of the biggest inspirations on D&D, so I'm surprised he was not included in the Mythus Magick list.

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  24. It's too bad, though, that Clark Ashton Smith still didn't make it on.

    By most accounts, Gary didn't seem to have much of a taste for CAS, while Rob Kuntz (and, it would seem, Tom Moldvay) did. It's a pity, as I'm very fond of Smith and find him far more inspirational than many of the authors included in this second list.

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  25. This seems to me to represent a maturation of Gygax's conception of gameplay beyond a simplistic, linear, episodic style with a mere overarching theme as organization (in the mode of ERB's Barsoomian stories) to a more complex, nuanced, character-driven style of play embedded in a richly detailed world which exists beyond its interactions with the player characters.

    That's quite the conclusion to draw from this bibliography ...

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  26. 3) I think Gary might have liked Brooks because of his humour.

    Possibly. I just find it odd, given Gary's oft-stated dislike of Tolkien, that he'd have much taste for a Tolkien imitator.

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  27. >> Lovecraft was more an influence on Rob Kuntz than EGG and into D&D via that route, anyhow.
    > That's certainly true of Clark Ashton Smith, whom Gygax apparently hadn't read until Kuntz turned him on to his stories. But HPL? Gary specifically notes that Lovecraft was one of the biggest inspirations on D&D

    One of /the/ biggest, not one of /his/ biggest inspirations?

    *nods* Agreed (and certainly more so than JRRT ;) , but rather more via Kuntz rather than Gygax from the known pre-G/D history. Lovecraftian cosmic horror doesn't exactly jibe well with EGG's cozy humanocentricism either. *jk*

    It was Rob who added HPL overtones (sorry, undertones) to Greyhawk City, the Lost City of the Elders ( http://lordofthegreendragons.blogspot.com/2009/12/updates-and-ancient-sample.html ), the Temple of the Elder Gods, wrote up the first stats for Mythos critters, left the Necronomicon lying around for unwary gamers and tempted them to Fomalhaut if they dared.
    EGG might've had HPL at the back of his mind as an "inspiration" but that does not appear to be /as/ intrinsic to his own early game testing and gameplay leading to the (A)D&D ruleset and its particular normative gaming paradigms.

    Regards,
    David.

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  28. > This seems to me to represent a maturation of Gygax's conception of gameplay beyond a simplistic, linear, episodic style with a mere overarching theme as organization (in the mode of ERB's Barsoomian stories) to a more complex, nuanced, character-driven style of play embedded in a richly detailed world which exists beyond its interactions with the player characters.

    The campaign world concept predates both EGG and Arneson, however. EGG was /well/ aware of that and was even abortively fumbling his way towards such prior Arneson's proto-D&D demo (q.v. http://odd74.proboards.com/index.cgi?action=display&board=menmagic&thread=3034&page=2#42205 ).

    D&D as it emerged and developed, however, was as a game focused first down to the individual "Two Sought Adventure" level but a wider worldgame scope/complexity inevitably crept in, was drawn upon and developed further as time went on.
    *
    The first RPG campaign worlds were designed bottom-up (and very patchily at that) which is yet another reason why Tekumel stands out as a paradigm shift, given that Rob Kuntz's Kalibruhn (presumably the first RPG world to be designed top-down) didn't make it into print.

    JM02c, anyhow. ;)

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  29. James Maliszewski:
    That's quite the conclusion to draw from this bibliography ..

    You are right, I don't think my statement is really supported. It is quite striking to me though that one of the few authors explicitly mentioned in the Forward (sic) to Men and Magic (the others: Fletcher & Pratt, Howard, and Leiber all have stars in the later appendix) should not merit any star.

    irbyz:
    The first RPG campaign worlds were designed bottom-up (and very patchily at that)

    This matches my understanding, and also matches the history of my own campaign designs.

    which is yet another reason why Tekumel stands out as a paradigm shift, given that Rob Kuntz's Kalibruhn (presumably the first RPG world to be designed top-down) didn't make it into print.

    Greg Stafford's Glorantha was another early example of a top-down design, although I don't believe Glorantha was initially intended as a game setting.

    Thinking just now about how D&D was the first-to-market, breakout innovative product and yet these more highly detailed campaign worlds were in existence but not yet available to a wider audience it strikes me that D&D is an example of the "New Jersey approach" (see http://www.jwz.org/doc/worse-is-better.html), with plenty of warts, but getting enough things right that it achieves wide adoption.

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  30. argh, if I could edit I would change one of the uses of to strike to something else.

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  31. I think Gary was a fan of Piers' Anthony Apprentice Adept series (Split Infinity, etc).

    In a 2007 post to EnWorld, he wrote that if he was writing the DMG Appendix N book now, that he "wouldn't change the list much, other than to add a couple of novels such as Lanier's second Hiero yarn, Piers Anthony's Split Infinity series, and the Disc World books."

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