Friday, May 8, 2009

My Appendix N

Zachary Houghton asks the intriguing question: "what’s your Appendix N? What fiction has influenced your campaigns, play styles, and writings?" In answer, I provide the following list:

Anderson, Poul. Three Hearts and Three Lions; The Broken Sword.
Bullfinch, Thomas. The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry, Legends of Charlemagne (aka Bullfinch's Mythology)
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. "Barsoom" series.
Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass.
Howard, Robert E. "Conan" series; "Kull" series; "Solomon Kane" series.
Lanier, Sterling. Hiero's Journey; The Unforsaken Hiero.
Leiber, Fritz. "Lankhmar" series.
Lovecraft, H.P.
Malory, Thomas.
Le Morte d'Arthur.
Norton, Andre. Star Man's Son.
Smith, Clark Ashton.
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings.
Vance, Jack. The Dying Earth; The Eyes of the Overworld; Cugel's Saga; Rhialto the Marvelous.

There are undoubtedly other authors and books I've forgotten to include and I've limited my list to fiction, since the number of non-fiction books I could mention is quite large. Those listed as the ones that immediately sprang to mind without much thought, so they're certainly the ones that best represent my current understanding of what D&D is and how it ought to be played.

As you can see, with the exception of H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, whose works I enjoy without qualification, I specified the particular books or series that had the most profound influence on me. Much as I love REH, for example, I can't say I have much taste for his Steve Costigan stories, for example, and they certainly had no significant influence over my conception of fantasy roleplaying.
I don't think there are too many surprises in my list, which is pretty short and, with some exceptions, rather strongly focused on pulp fantasy and science fiction.


  1. James, my list is even shorter. I mean everything influences and goes into the world view, which shapes the creative process. But anything I liked and deliberately introduced into the campaign:

    Dever and Chalk - Lone Wolf series.
    Planet P Project - Pink World CD.
    Planescape: Torment - CRPG.
    Greyhawk setting: Greyhawk city, Verbobonc, Lake Nyr Dyv, Modified Scarlet Alliance.
    Intangibles: Culture, theology and Mysticism of the ancient Slavs.

  2. Dang it! How did I forget Fritz Leiber? Jack Vance...only through his influence on Gary.

  3. I have to wonder how many people blithely put down as their "gaming influences" works like KEW's Kane stories, or REH's works, yet their games seem nothing like the stories they claim influenced their conception.

    It's like film school all over again. Everyone citing the same filmmakers as their "main influences", and then cranking out garbage that is, at best, a pale mockery of said influential directors and their works.

  4. My list could have just one name:

    L. Sprague de Camp
    "The Tritonian Ring", the Novarian series, the Harold Shea series, the Krishna series.

    de Camp has the perfect mix of adventure, travelogue, fantasy, and humor in his stories to capture what Old School play is like. They seem to me like sandbox campaigns in prose form.

  5. I have to wonder how many people blithely put down as their "gaming influences" works like KEW's Kane stories, or REH's works, yet their games seem nothing like the stories they claim influenced their conception.

    Doesn't that depend on how narrowly one wishes to define "influence?"

  6. @Badelaire: Peoples' tastes change over time. They might pastiche a particular author heavily one year; then later react against the style of play that influence suggests.

    Even if not readily detectable in their current play style, the fact that [author name here] has been an inspiration - and sometimes an active model for emulation - remains.

    I sincerely doubt that it's just a case of people name-checking the usual suspects. :|

  7. Badelaire, DMing and adventure writing as skills, and there is also a question of interpretation. Just because an artist loves Rembrandt or Da Vinci, does not mean that they will create a Reambrandt or Da vinci if they tried painting one.

  8. Well, I think authors can also be inspirations on how *not* to handle something in a game as well, or to think about how you'd handle it differently. They may also be an inspiration that got you interested in the hobby or genre, even if later tastes shifted.

  9. I found some inspiration in Faulkner's *As I Lay Dying* about a family taking their dead mother on an overland journey to be buried in the place of her birth. How it relates to my game:
    * "Quests" don't have to involve saving the world. They can invovle the mundane or the absurd.
    * NPCs can have tangential motivations. (Her widower was looking forward to buying false teeth for himself.)
    * PCs can have tangential motivations.
    * Weirdness is good and you can have it without magic or monsters.
    * Evil intentions are common and you can have it in characters who seem decent to themselves and others.

    I haven't read much in the fantasy canon but feel I know a lot of it through D&D. I like history and myth. But almost whenever I read soemthing I like I will get to thinking about how to get it into a D&D game. As far as trying to make a direct copy, however, that's rare except fo my own PCs.(Racoop the Red (my first character); Calidore (from the Faerie Queen).

  10. My Appendix N:
    Tolkien- The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings
    Lucas- Star Wars, Indiana Jones
    Lewis- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe
    Homer- Odyssey (by way of the Coen Brothers' O Brother Where Art Thou?)
    Arthur Conan Doyle- The Lost World
    Disney- Aladdin (and of course, from there, I went to...)
    The Thousand and One Nights
    Gaiman- Sandman, American Gods, Stardust, Coraline (Why do you think I statted up the Beldam, huh?)
    Pratchett- Discworld (Regrettably, I have only read The Color Of Magic, The Light Fantastic, and Thud)
    Lloyd- The Chronicles of Prydain

  11. For me it's something like this (asterisks = "most influential"):

    Anderson, Poul. THE BROKEN SWORD, et al.
    Beagle, Peter S. THE LAST UNOCORN
    Bellairs, John. THE FACE IN THE FROST
    Blackwood, Algernon.
    Burroughs, Edgar Rice. "Mars" series
    Cook, Glen. "Black Company" series
    de Camp & Pratt. "Harold Shea" series.
    *Farmer, Philip Jose. "World of Tiers" series, "Riverworld" series, et al.
    Fox, Gardner. "Kothar" series
    *Howard, Robert E. "Conan" series, "Soloman Kane" series, et al.
    Leiber, Fritz. "Lankhmar" series, et al.
    Machen, Arthur.
    Matheson, Richard. I AM LEGEND, WHAT DREAMS MAY COME, et al.
    Norton, Andre. "With World" series
    Pratchett, Terry. "Discworld" series
    *Pratt, Fletcher. THE BLUE STAR
    Pullman, Philip. "His Dark Materials" series
    Rowling, J.K. "Harry Potter" series
    Smith, Clark Ashton. "Hyperborea" series, "Averoigne" series, et al.
    Tolkien, J.R.R. THE HOBBIT, "Ring" trilogy
    *Vance, Jack. THE DYING EARTH, EYES OF THE OVERWORLD, "Planet of Adventure" series, et al.
    Wolfe, Gene. "New Sun" series
    Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS, "Amber" series, et al.

  12. That Discworld is amazing. It was a breth of fresh air after Tolkien and the Shannara series!

    American Gods, what an amazing story. Funny, how Hollywood has overlooked Gaiman. SGT Low-key! Front and Center. And my own contribution to the American Gods -Oddy-Knocky: Burgessian Clockwork Orange-ish God of Alienation, patron saint of serial violence.

  13. Brooze- I don't think Hollywood's overlooked Gaiman that much. Coraline was a big hit, and so was Stardust, and there's been a lot of rumors going around about either a Sandman movie series or Death: The High Cost of Living getting an adaptation.

  14. You appear to have infected me with your meme. Of note in my list that's different from most it appears is the strong presence of YA fiction and bandes-desinées sources.