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Reading Appendix N

Creep, Shadow, Creep and Burn, Witch, Burn

My copy of Creep, Shadow, Creep (paid link) — which I believe was originally titled Creep, Shadow! — arrived today, and it’s by far the oldest physical book in my expanding Appendix N library. It promptly fell out of its cover, but should still be quite readable.

There’s no date to be found inside it, but the first page opens with this fabulous if somewhat dubious statement, making me think it was published during U.S. involvement in WWII:

Today publishers as well as shipbuilders have their part to contribute in our all-out Victory effort.

Here’s a shot:

I also noticed a footnote at the end of the page referring the reader back to Burn, Witch, Burn (paid link), and thereby learned that this is actually a sequel (to a book not listed in Appendix N). I’ve updated the 100-book reading list accordingly.

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Books Reading Appendix N

Eric Dodd’s excellent essays on Appendix N authors and works

I posted a thread over on RPGGeek about this project, and Steven Robert shared a link with me: Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading: Jack Vance.

This is the latest in a series of thoughtful and informative essays about Appendix N authors and works by Eric Dodd, and it includes links to previous entries in this ongoing series. If I can be even a fraction as engaging as Eric in my posts on individual Appendix N titles, I’ll be a happy camper. You should definitely check these out.

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Books Reading Appendix N

The 100-Book Appendix N Reading List

 

 

Hunting down copies of old books for this project has been a lot of fun so far, but I needed a tool to make actual hunting easier — and if you’re looking for Appendix N books to read, you probably do, too. I’ve never seen Appendix N broken out book-by-book, so I decided to create a comprehensive Appendix N reading list.

I assembled this Appendix N reading list based on the common-sense guidelines I’m using for my Reading Appendix N project, so the list includes:

  • Every book Gary listed by title
  • Every book in every series that Gary listed by name
  • For every author Gary listed only by name, one book recommended by me based on research and/or personal experience

To follow Gary’s advice to the letter, seeking out “all their fantasy writing” for authors listed only by name (or with “et al” in their listings), would result in a reading list more than double or triple the size of this one. That list is outside the scope of this project — for all practical purposes, I’d argue that if you read the 100 books on the list below, you’ve read Appendix N. And if that inspires you to read additional works by Appendix N authors, or to complete series that continued after Appendix N was published, rock on!

Notes about the list

The “Author info” link will take you to an author’s Wikipedia page — great for seeing their bibliographies and learning more about them and their work. The “Yore posts” link will take you to posts on this blog about that author and their work (if present). “Free ebooks,” if present, will link you to the author’s Project Gutenberg page so you can locate legal free copies of their work. Book titles link to Amazon, with a bias to collected editions when I could find them.

In cases where Gary didn’t list titles or series for an author, I’ve recommended a specific book based on my research, personal experience, or both.

The 100-Book Appendix N Reading List

(You can also download this list in a stripped-down format suitable for printing and tracking your Appendix N collection: PDF, Excel.)

Free ebook versions

You can find some of the works in Appendix N as free ebooks, notably those that are old enough to be in the public domain. Project Gutenberg is a good place to start, as is Amazon’s Kindle store (paid link), which has many titles for free and sells others for a buck or two. And, of course, your local library will likely have many of them available for free as well!

I’m a print guy, and I wanted to be able to add the books I read as part of this project to my collection, so I’ve provided Amazon links for those who feel the same; if you buy something after clicking on them, I earn a small percentage (at no cost to you). My experience buying used books on Amazon has been overwhelmingly positive.

What counts as a book?

By virtue of the DMG’s publication date, 1979, every book in Appendix N is at least 33 years old at the time of this writing. Many are much older, and a lot of these titles have enjoyed great popularity and thus many reprints in different forms and formats. Burroughs’ John Carter stories, for example, exist in single volumes, two-book collections, and multi-book collections.

While 100 may sound like a suspiciously convenient number for this reading list, I didn’t do anything to make the list come out at exactly a hundred books. I tried to apply common sense to deciding what to count as a book, and a hundred is where the list wound up.

If a title was widely released as a single volume, that obviously counts as a book. In the case of short stories, like REH’s Conan yarns, I picked specific collected editions; if you choose different editions, you may wind up reading more or fewer books. For The Lord of the Rings, which was originally seven books but is best known as a trilogy, I went with what I thought most people would expect — three books, in that case.

No matter how you skin this particular cat, reading every title listed in Appendix N means reading a lot of books. If your personal path through this fabulous appendix results in reading a few more or a few less than a hundred books, no one’s going to call you on the carpet — just enjoy the reading!

Happy reading!

It looks pretty straightforward, but this list took me many hours to build — researching authors to choose representative works, finding the best Amazon listings to link to, adding notes where I thought notes would be helpful to readers, proofreading, and playing with the format until I found one I thought was both informative and uncluttered. I hope it’s useful to you, and that it leads to many happy hours of reading!

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Books DCC RPG Old school Reading Appendix N Tabletop RPGs

The DCC RPG and a reading list

Part of my inspiration for this project came from my copy of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The DCC RPG is based on Appendix N, and itself has an Appendix N. In that appendix is this picture of all of the Appendix N titles the author, Joseph Goodman, read before and during the time he worked on the game:

I saw that picture and immediately thought, Holy shit, that looks like fun. As inspirations for Reading Appendix N go, this one played a big role. Something about not only reading all of those books, but also tracking them all down, hit me somewhere primal. “Book + collection” goes straight to my rat-brain.

Joseph also proposed the same common-sense guidelines I’m following for this project: Read everything listed by title or series, and pick a representative work where no title/series is listed. While I didn’t crack open the DCC RPG to use as a template for Reading Appendix N, I’m sure Joseph’s guidelines helped frame the whole project in my mind. Some of the books he picked I followed his lead on, some we both chose independently, and some don’t overlap at all.

The DCC RPG

The DCC RPG is awesome and well worth checking out; here’s the Amazon link (paid link). Even if you never play it, the amount of amazing old school artwork it boasts is worth the price of admission.

An Amazon Listmania! list

I’m not the first to post an Appendix N reading list online — something I’m going to do shortly, having spent several days working on it. This Amazon Listmania! list (paid link) was inspired by the DCC RPG, and appears complete.

I’m in favor of any effort to spread the word about Appendix N, but that list isn’t exactly the kind of tool I need. It’s not in a useful order, doesn’t list individual works by title, doesn’t provide notes or other extras, and doesn’t explain the thinking behind the personal recommendations the list creator made.

I’m also not the first person to undertake reading Appendix N (and I certainly hope I’m not the last!), and that’s fine by me. What I’m trying to do here on Yore is tackle this project in a way that’s useful and interesting to others as well as enjoyable for me. Where a tool exists — like the above list — that’s less than ideal, I aim to build a better one. Stay tuned for my Appendix N reading list, which should go up shortly!

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Books Reading Appendix N

Reading Appendix N: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

My first foray into Appendix N was in 1984 or ’85, in second grade — I was either seven or eight — when I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit (paid link). Of course, I didn’t know what Appendix N was at the time, or even what gaming was; I didn’t start gaming until 1987. But it’s my starting point all the same, and a good one.

It wasn’t this copy; I’m pretty sure it was an old British edition of my Mom’s, but this is the copy my wife and I own now. And I don’t remember why I read it — whether my parents suggested it to me, whether I had heard of it from someone, or whether I just happened across it on their shelves. I was a precocious reader, so it didn’t take much. (I do remember being very proud that I’d read it so young, so I must have known it wasn’t a kids book in the sense of most second grade kids books.)

However it happened, I was hooked. The Hobbit was almost certainly the first fantasy novel I read, and what a great first it was. I think I’ve only read it once since (an oversight I should rectify!), but it stuck with me. I still vividly remember the scene with the trolls, and Bilbo’s encounter with Gollum, decades later.

After hearing all this Bilbo ought to have done something at once. Either he should have gone back quietly and warned his friends that there were three fair-sized trolls at hand in a nasty mood, quite likely to try toasted dwarf, or even pony, for a change; or else he should have done a bit of good quick burgling.

I’m not a believer in teleology, the notion of final causes — of straight lines back from a present condition to some single thing or event in one’s past — but the line from my current interests back to The Hobbit is a pretty straight one nonetheless. Star Wars played a big role, too (the first book my parents didn’t help me read was a Star Wars book of some sort; man was I pissed that they wouldn’t help!), as did Robert Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky (paid link) — my first sci-fi novel, and my first grown-up book.

But The Hobbit was my first taste of fantasy in the classical sense, and a magical one at that. It had maps in the front, and a sense of a vast world waiting to be discovered. And it got me to try The Lord of the Rings (paid link),which I tried and failed to read several times before eventually succeeding (a story for a future post). I’ve always had a fondness for halflings in RPGs, as well as dwarves, and it’s entirely possible that both of those interests started with The Hobbit, as well.

And although they’re not favorably presented (“Should any player wish to be one…”) in the original edition of D&D, hobbits — later renamed “halflings” for legal reasons — did make it into Dungeons & Dragons. And given that The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are both in Appendix N, it’s a sure bet that that’s where they came from.

If you’ve never read it, I highly recommend The Hobbit. It’s a quick read, suitable for younger kids, and makes a great point of entry into Appendix N.

The Hobbit and AD&D

It’s not hard to see connections between The Hobbit and D&D — really, the question is why it (and The Lord of the Rings) isn’t a Tier One book, one Gary cited as most directly influencing him when he wrote AD&D. I don’t know the answer to that question; I hope to learn it, or at least come to my own conclusions about it, over the course of this project.

There were hobbits in the early printings of basic D&D, before they were changed to “halflings” to appease the Tolkien estate. There are halflings, dwarves, wizards, adventuring parties, dragons, trolls (albeit of a very different variety), quests, unlikely successes, perilous journeys and many more elements found in The Hobbit in AD&D — and in every edition of D&D, really.

I think there would absolutely be and AD&D, and a D&D, without The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, but I don’t think D&D would have enjoyed as much early popularity, nor spread so quickly, without Tolkien and the popularity of his books.

Which edition?

If I was going to buy The Hobbit new, I’d buy this gorgeous hardcover edition (paid link) from 2007, which is pretty reasonably priced. I’ve flipped through it in the store and nearly picked it up more than once despite already owning a copy. (Update: Reader Simon Forster says the paperback version of this edition includes corrections, and is preferable; I can’t find it on Amazon.) This inexpensive boxed set (paid link), which includes the Lord of the Rings trilogy, is another good option.

Alternately, I’d snag the cheapest old paperback copy I could find. I buy a lot of my used books on Amazon, and anything reasonably popular tends to have a host of used paperback copies for $0.01 + $3.99 shipping; here’s The Hobbit (paid link) in mass market paperback, with lots of penny listings.

I look for sellers with feedback in the 90s whose condition descriptions suggest they’re talking specifically about the copy they have for sale, and avoid the ones with no description at all. As long as the pages are tight and the spine isn’t too cracked, old paperbacks have lots of life in them.

Old books, and books in general

If the fact that I’m devoting hundreds of hours to reading Appendix N, and thousands of words to talking about reading it, wasn’t enough to tip you off, I love books. If you’re reading this, I suspect you do, too.

Old books and used books have a special place in my heart. I love old fantasy and SF covers, with the art direction that amounted to “Draw a space guy and an alien” and the resultant lack of any connection to their contents; the feel of soft old pages; names and other ephemera that you find inside them; and, of course, the smell. There’s no smell like the smell of old books — particularly when they’re old books you’ve read, and the smell brings back distinct memories that are all yours.

Anyhoo, this being the first Reading Appendix N post about a specific book, I figured I’d put that out there so you know where I’m coming from. Happy reading!

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Books Reading Appendix N

The size of the bite

I dropped by the only large used bookstore I know of in Salt Lake City during my lunch break, Weller Book Works, and while I didn’t buy any new Appendix N books I did learn something: If I stick my goal to read every work by all of the authors in Appendix N, or even just all of their fantasy and SF work, this is a shitload of reading.

To take just one author — the one who led me to realize just what that goal entailed — Andre Norton has written like a billion books. Others are also quite prolific, like Fred Saberhagen, L. Sprague de Camp, and Leigh Brackett; reading every book they wrote is a serious challenge.

That’s not a bad thing, but it’s a goal so large in scope that I would run the risk of feeling overwhelmed and giving up. I’ve decided to limit the scope of this project to the works listed in Appendix N, plus one work for every author for whom Gary didn’t list a title/series. I’ve amended the original Reading Appendix N post accordingly.

Better lists

Prowling the aisles with Appendix N open on my phone, I also realized I need a to-buy list other than the appendix itself — and a couple more lists to boot.

For example, Andre Norton again: Which book should I start with? A little research suggested the first Witch World novel, but there’s no reason to look that up every time I’m in a bookstore. I’d also love to have a list where I could track the books I own and the ones I’ve read.

Those lists will be the subject of future posts.

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Books Reading Appendix N

Reading Appendix N: The project, the appendix, and the goal

Back in July, I started a project with a simple goal:

Read every book listed by Gary Gygax in Appendix N of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide.

I started reading Appendix N books because I wanted to gain insight into the roots of the hobby, and of D&D in particular, and kept reading them because this is an awesome list of books. I respect Gary Gygax and his work a great deal, and it’s neat to discover how much our taste in books and some of our childhood experiences overlap. I love that Appendix N includes authors I’d never heard of, and books I’d never have considered on my own, in addition to well-known works and things I’d read before discovering it.

Having a simple, clearly defined goal in mind has already helped me stay on track when I could easily have been distracted by the oodles of other shiny books in my teetering, ever-growing to-read stack. That’s part of why I’m embarking on this project as a project, and blogging about it, rather than just reading these books without a goal and guidelines (which, of course, would also be a fine way to approach Appendix N!).

Delving into Appendix N has been a fun and rewarding experience so far, and it occurred to me that other gamers, readers, and fans of fantasy and sci-fi might also be new to Appendix N and want to take a stab at reading some or all of its referenced works. “Reading Appendix N” is my ongoing series of blog posts about doing just that, of which this is the first.

What’s Appendix N?

At the end of the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide (1979), Gary Gygax included a host of appendices — A through P. All of them provide extra stuff for the game, things like wandering monster tables, dungeon dressing, and the like, except one: Appendix N.

That one, as I’ve discovered over the past few weeks, is a treasure trove of incredible books. Appendix N is only half a page long, but it’s jam-packed with goodness. Here it is in its entirety:

APPENDIX N: INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING

Inspiration for all of 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 Long. 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 their fantasy writing to you. From such sources, as well as just about any other imaginative writing or screenplay you will be able to pluck kernels from which grow the fruits of exciting campaigns. Good reading!

Inspirational Reading:

Anderson, Poul. THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH
    CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD
Bellairs, John. THE FACE IN THE FROST
Brackett, Leigh.
Brown, Fredric.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice. “Pellucidar” Series; Mars Series; Venus Series
Carter, Lin. “World’s End” Series
de Camp, L. Sprague. LEST DARKNESS FALL; FALLIBLE FIEND; et al.
de Camp & Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August.
Dunsany, Lord.
Farmer, P. J. “The World of Tiers” Series; et al.
Fox, Gardner. “Kothar” Series; “Kyrik” Series; et al.
Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series
Lanier, Sterling. HIERO’S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al.
Lovecraft, H. P.
Merritt, A. CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE
    MIRAGE; et al.
Moorcock, Michael. STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon”
    Series (esp. the first three books)
Norton, Andre
Offutt, Andrew J., editor SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III.
Pratt, Fletcher, BLUE STAR; et al.
Saberhagen, Fred. CHANGELING EARTH; et al.
St. Clair, Margaret. THE SHADOW PEOPLE; SIGN OF THE LABRYS
Tolkien, J. R. R. THE HOBBIT; “Ring Trilogy”
Vance, Jack. THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al.
Weinbaum, Stanley.
Wellman, Manly Wade.
Williamson, Jack.
Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” Series; et al.

The most immediate influences upon AD&D were probably de Camp & Pratt, REH, Fritz Leiber, Jack Vance, HPL, 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.”

The project

Appendix N lists 28 authors, 22 specific titles, and 12 specific book series. With regard to the authors, Gary recommends “all their fantasy writing,” and he includes “et al” for some authors — which I take to mean Just go read all of their books, they’re excellent.

Once I had bought and read my first book from Appendix N explicitly as part of this project — Jack Vance’s The Eyes of the Overworld — I realized I needed some guidelines to keep me focused and on track. Here’s how I’m approaching this project:

  1. Read every book cited by name
  2. Read every book in every series cited by name
  3. Where no titles/series are cited, read at least one book by that author
  4. If the first book in a series, or by an author, is godawful, consider skipping the rest — but it has to be really bad

I haven’t broken out every series by title to see how many books this actually is, but my guess is around a hundred. But where to start?

Tier one of Appendix N

Because my initial goal was to learn more about the origins of D&D, I came up with a “Tier One” reading list based on Gary’s closing paragraph: the works he cites as having “helped to shape the form of the game.”

Here’s Tier One:

  • de Camp & Pratt. “Harold Shea” Series; CARNELIAN CUBE
  • Howard, R. E. “Conan” Series
  • Leiber, Fritz. “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” Series; et al
  • Lovecraft, H. P.
  • Merritt, A. CREEP, SHADOW, CREEP; MOON POOL; DWELLERS IN THE
        MIRAGE; et al
  • Vance, Jack. THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al

This has proven to be a great starting point for me. I’ve already read everything H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote, and all of the Conan yarns. I read The Eyes of the Overworld, Dying Earth, and the first Lankhmar novel, Swords Against Death, before writing this post, and I’ve already bought a couple of the other books in Tier One.

If you want to give this project a shot yourself but are intimidated by the number of books in Tier One, you could always truncate the list a bit further: Just read one book by each of the Tier One authors. I can vouch for the awesomeness of Howard, Lieber, Lovecraft, and Vance, and skimming suggests that de Camp & Pratt and Merritt will also be enjoyable — so as short lists go, this seems like a good one.

The little banner

Given the number of books listed in Appendix N and how little free time I have for reading these days, this project could take a while. It seemed like a good idea to create a graphic for this series to make it stand out from other posts here. Behold my amazing graphic design skills!

I chose the books that appear in the logo based on their significance to me. Left to right, top row first, they are The Dunwich Horror and Others (H.P. Lovecraft), The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian (Robert E. Howard), The Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien), The Three of Swords (Fritz Lieber), The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien), the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide (Gary Gygax), Nine Princes in Amber (Roger Zelazny), and Dwellers in the Mirage (A. Merritt).

I started reading Appendix N before I knew there was an Appendix N, and long before I became a gamer and bought a copy of the 1e DMG, by reading The Hobbit in second grade. I was introduced to Lovecraft in high school, and he quickly became one of my favorite authors. I got into Zelazny’s Amber series around the same time, and loved his work as well. I tried and failed to read The Lord of the Rings several times as a kid, and eventually succeeded in my 20s; its volumes are now among my all-time favorite books.

In January 2012, Troy Taylor blogged about running red box D&D for his kids on Gnome Stew, sparking my interest in delving into the roots of gaming as a hobby. That led me to Appendix N, and in turn to Conan. I’d never read any Conan tales, and they were excellent — as well as totally not what I had expected. By the time I read the last Conan story, I had decided to read all of Appendix N.

When I finally carved out time to write this post, I was midway through the second Lankhmar book, Swords Against Death, which is part of the omnibus edition in the banner. A. Merritt’s Dwellers in the Mirage was acquired when I narrowed my initial reading list to Appendix N’s Tier One, but I haven’t read it yet — a nod to the long road ahead.

What’s next?

For me, what’s next is a whole lot more reading. In terms of this blog series, what’s next will likely be a couple of posts about the Appendix N titles I’ve already read. Going forward, I suspect I’ll post every time I start on a new author’s work, or whenever I have something Appendix N-y I think is worth sharing.

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading this post! I wanted to cover all of the foundational stuff up front, and put the basics in one post I can link back to later, which is why it’s so long.

Happy gaming — and happy reading!

Categories
Miscellaneous geekery

The world’s largest Jawa

Jawas are one of my favorite Star Wars aliens, and making a Jawa costume for Halloween 2010 sounded like fun. Looking at the one commercially available option, I wasn’t thrilled; for $60, it looked pretty meh. Once I got into researching better options, I knew I had to give making my own Jawa costume a shot.

Here’s the finished product — the World’s Largest Jawa.

Partly because I was reading The Making of Star Wars at the time, I became fixated on making it as screen-accurate as possible, working towards the 501st Legion‘s standards for serious costumers as spelled out on the Krayt Clan website. There’s a lot of great info online about making a Jawa costume (some of which I’ve linked to below), but most tutorials and threads focus on making one for your kids. I wanted to be the World’s Largest Jawa (at 6’0″ and around 195 lbs.), so I had to tweak things to create an adult-sized Jawa costume.

It was a hell of a lot of work, so I figured I’d document it here in case I could save other folks some time and heartache. Going this route took Alysia and I about 20 hours (10 for the robe and hood, 10 for everything else not counting dyeing time) and cost around $200.

That’s not cheap, but a) it’s cheap compared to many screen-accurate costumes, and b) it’s an investment in a costume you can wear for years to come. The robe and bandoliers are quite durable; even if I have to replace the shoes or mask down the line, it will be relatively easy and inexpensive to do so.

Online Resources

I spent hours researching this costume, so I’m sure I forgot to include some awesome sites on this list — but I did keep track as I went, so this should be most of them. I’d also like to thank the folks on the Krayt Clan forums for their advice; Krayt Clan is the official branch of the 501st Legion for “denizens of the galaxy,” which includes Jawas and Tusken raiders.

Complete jawa tutorial
Harlan’s Workshop’s jawa outfit tutorial
Jawa costume thread on The Dented Helmet
TD8733’s jawa costume tutorial
Jawa on a shoestring
Keep to the Code thread on weathering
Krayt Clan’s official costuming requirements for jawas
Krayt Clan’s reference photos
Star Wars Trader’s prop reviews
TK1336’s jawa tutorial
TK409’s mask tutorial
TK409’s robe pattern

Materials and Supplies

Here’s a complete list of what Alysia and I used to make this costume, including some stuff you likely already have (like electrical tape) for completeness’ sake. You’ll also need a sewing machine and someone who can sew (thanks, Alysia!).

There are lots of ways to skin this cat, but I can only speak to the materials I used — this approach worked for me, and I was happy with the results.

Costume Components

7.5 yards of natural monk’s cloth. This was $7/yard at Wal-Mart, the cheapest I could find (it’s $10/yard at fabric stores). I could have gotten away with 7 yards, maybe even 6, but I’m 6′ tall and wanted to some room for error (monk’s cloth shrinks a lot, too). Pre-dyed monk’s cloth is crazy expensive and might not actually be the right color; dyeing is easy and cheap.

1 yard of non-shiny, breathable black fabric. $6 at the fabric store. I wanted the furry/textured stuff I’d seen in online tutorials, but couldn’t find anything similar. I wound up using the stuff I picked up to cover the mask as well as make the cowl; if you find something better to cover the mask, you still need breathable cowl fabric.

1/2 a yard of black cotton fabric. About $3 at the fabric store. This is the hood liner.

A pair of dark brown jersey cotton gloves. $1 at Lowe’s. If you can find convincing fur to put on the cuffs, rock on; I couldn’t find any I liked, so I skipped that element.

Bandoliers. There are lots of options for these, but I went with a bandolier (a replica 1903 .303 five-pouch bandolier, $45 + shipping from IMA), a wide, dark brown belt ($20 at Sears), and a replica ammo pouch (WWII Mauser pouch, $18 + shipping on eBay). This is a middle-of-the-road approach: the bandolier and pouch are screen-accurate; the belt isn’t, but it does keep costs down. Using leather as opposed to vinyl makes for much more convincing weathering and looks better overall. If you’re tooling a custom ion blaster holster, buying two bandoliers, etc., expect to spend more.

Crappy plastic goalie/Jason mask. About a buck at a local grocery store around Halloween.

2 1″ diameter plastic toy pods from a vending machine. These were ubiquitous when I was a kid, but surprisingly hard to find these days. $0.25 apiece at a grocery store; buy four in case you screw up a couple. These are the shells for the eyes.

Pre-wired orange LED “Jawa eyes” with a battery pack. $10 on eBay. The wiring is supposed to be pretty easy, but I’m not an electrical guy.

Crappy shoes or boots. $25 duck boots from Wal-Mart are pretty close to the real thing, but I just used an old pair of Vans from the basement to save money. You’re going to glue fabric to these, and if the robe is long enough no one will see whether they’re shoes or boots.

Supplies

2 bottles of RIT liquid dye in dark brown. $3 apiece, also from Wal-Mart. (I wound up buying four bottles so I could re-dye my fabric, but the re-dyeing didn’t actually help — two bottles was plenty.)

Large plastic tub with handles. 7+ yards of fabric takes up some room, and the handles make it easy to move. (The dye actually rinsed out easily, so you don’t need to buy a tub just for this purpose.)

A 1″ thick piece of soft craft foam. Around $4. Not every craft store carries the soft stuff, so you might have to poke around (I got mine at Hobby Lobby). It doesn’t matter what color this is — it goes inside the mask to give you some padding and create extra breathing room.

Hot glue gun and glue sticks. About $9. I wish I’d paid more than $6 for a better gun, but the crappy one I bought worked OK. Available at any craft store.

3′ of 14 guage coated wire. About $2 at Lowe’s. (Apparently 12 guage works just as well.) This is for shaping the opening of the hood.

150 grain sandpaper. A buck or two at Lowe’s; I needed two sheets to weather and distress the belt, ammo pouch, and bandolier. I also tried 100 grain and 220 grain; the former was too rough, the latter took forever.

Black electrical tape. About $2. This is for taping the wiring for the eyes to the mask (hot glue was way too messy).

Dark brown thread. $2 anywhere. I didn’t worry too much about matching the robe color perfectly (Jawas aren’t perfect).

Black shelf/drawer lining. $4 at grocery or craft stores. This is the stuff you lay in drawers to keep what’s in them from moving around — a kind of lightly tacky mesh. It goes over the eye holes to keep your eyes from being visible in the mask.

1 can of satin-finish spray paint, almond color. $4 at Wal-Mart; I used Krylon Satin Almond. This is used to spray sand/dirt stains onto the robe.

Jawas aren’t Perfect

The nice thing about this costume is that unlike other Star Wars costumes, Jawas aren’t shiny and perfect. They’re dirty upright rodents who steal shit, repair droids, and tool around the desert — not fashion plates.

This means your costume doesn’t need to be perfect to look good — and some sloppiness is desirable, in my opinion. One of the coolest things about the original trilogy is that everything looks dirty and lived in, and this suits Jawas perfectly.

Ideally, this costume doesn’t look like a costume — instead, it looks like something a Jawa has actually worn while kicking around on Tatooine. Here’s a much larger shot of the costume that hopefully illustrates that.

Dyeing the Fabric

First things first: Monk’s cloth shrinks like crazy, so you need to wash it (cold/cold) and dry it (delicates with a sheet of fabric softener) before doing anything else.

Since the monk’s cloth started out natural, it then needed to be dyed. I half-filled my plastic tub with hot tap water, and then threw in both bottles of RIT dye along with one cup of salt. I let it steep for an hour, agitating with a broom handle every 15 minutes, then threw it in the washer on cold/cold with detergent. Then I popped it in the dryer on delicate with a fabric softener sheet, just like before.

It came out with some blotchy and light spots, so I threw it back in the dye tub for another hour and then washed and dried it again. That didn’t eliminate the blotches, so after a bit of research I decided it was because parts of the cloth hadn’t been completely submerged. So I bought two more bottles of dye, used more water, and didn’t agitate it this time around; it still wasn’t perfect, but that was where I stopped.

I decided that the imperfections were actually just fine, since I was planning to dirty up the robe anyway — I thought some subtle blotches would actually look pretty cool, and as it turned out they do.

This whole process was less intimidating than I expected, and would have taken about four hours if I’d skipped the third dye bath (which wasn’t necessary). That wasn’t four hours of work, though, since it’s just steeping, washing, and drying.

Making the Robe

I picked up the McCall’s “Space Nomads” pattern for reference, but nothing in it is quite right for a Jawa robe. I think Alysia used the large robe pattern as a reference for the sleeve cutouts, but apart from that the pattern wasn’t helpful.

We wound up just throwing the whole bolt of fabric over my head and adding a little extra on each end for good measure; that was about 5 yards total, leaving 2.5 yards for the other soft parts (sleeves, hood, and shoe/boot coverings).

Then Alysia cut a 12″ lateral slit for my head in the center, pinned the fabric where it should fall from my shoulders, and cut out holes for the sleeves. For the sleeves, she threw spare fabric over my arm and pinned it so it flared a bit. I wanted a frayed hem and sleeves, so she sewed a reinforcing stitch 1″ from the edges and left it at that.

I then laid the robe in the grass, stretched the hem so it lay flat, and sprayed on the sand/dirt/weathering around the hem. After letting it dry for a few minutes, I flipped it over and did the other side; then I hung it to dry in the garage. (I wanted to just go roll in the desert dirt, but it was waaay too cold by this point in the year.)

Start to finish, the robe took about six hours to sew and 20 minutes to spray paint. (Monk’s cloth is thick and hard to work with, so be prepared for things to take longer than expected.)

The Hood

The hood sucks to make — it’s fiddlier than it looks. Alysia draped fabric over my head and we spent quite a bit of time estimating the right size to get the perfect opening. The cowl portion needs to cover the neck slit in the robe and drape a bit in the front and back, but not too much.

We opted for the simplest closure, just a piece of velcro in the front. I’ve seen screen-used Jawa costumes with this closure, as well as ones with flaps that overlap in front.

She then lined the front portion with black cotton fabric (which enhances the effect of the eyes and helps keep you from seeing the mask), folded over the outer edge around the opening and sewed it up to accommodate the wire, and ran a reinforcing stitch around the hem. To keep the wire from poking through, she put a U-bend in each end.

The hood requires a bit of adjusting to get it to drape properly, and a bit more to get the opening to look right. Once it’s on, though, it looks great and stays in place.

Start to finish, this took four hours.

The Mask

I followed TK409’s excellent mask tutorial, diverging only a bit from it, so this section will be brief.

I couldn’t find the right fuzzy stuff to cover the mask, so I just used some textured cotton/poly fabric. I glued on the neck cowl and separate head cowl, then covered the front of the mask with strips of fabric. Since the goal is never to see these, it’s kind of a Plan B: If you do see the mask, it should look rough, like the rest of the costume. The two cowls contribute to this as well.

I used electrical tape to keep the LEDs for the eyes in place, but I wish I’d found a better solution. I padded the cheekbones (which provides clearance for the LEDs) and forehead, which makes it a bit more breathable. Some folks install a CPU fan, but I couldn’t see how there’d be enough room for that in my mask. I wound up just taping the battery pack to the top of the mask, since I wanted the whole unit to be self-contained; I left the little door accessible for battery changes.

Once it was built, I realized I could have dropped amber vase gems into the ends of the eye capsules to create a more natural effect, but it was too late. If I did this again, I’d go that route or source some 1″ diamater vase gems (which I couldn’t find locally in time) and skip the capsules entirely.

The mask took about two hours to make.

The Shoes

Since I was working with a normal pair of shoes (Vans with laces), I put them on, made them a bit loose, and then double-knotted the laces. That way I could glue cloth to them and would still be able to just slip them on and off.

Using a triangle of monk’s cloth that could just about cover the whole shoe, I first glued it along one edge of the shoe so that it lay just above the sole line. I wanted it to make the shoe invisible but not drag any fabric on the ground; to be screen-accurate, I would have needed to fully wrap the shoe, including the sole (and it would have needed to be a boot, of course).

To make it look less like a bootie, I cut leftover pieces of monk’s cloth into strips and covered the whole thing in a hodgepodge fashion. To simulate wear, I sprayed sand-colored paint around the edges.

All told, this step took about an hour.

Weathering

I covered simulating weathering on the robe and shoes above — this section is about weathering the bandolier, ammo pouch, and belt. There’s a certain amount of letting go and saying “Fuck it” to this part of the costume. I had to take this awesome thing Alysia and I were working so hard on, and which cost quite a bit, and mess it up, which felt weird at first. But messing it up the right way is the thing that takes this costume — which is relatively simply in appearance, if not in construction — over the top.

After doing a bunch of research online, the biggest takeaway seemed to be that in order to weather something authentically, you have to consider how it would actually be used and then beat the hell out of it. I started by sanding all of the high points and edges — the spots where these items would naturally wear.

I erred on the side of caution, sanding a little instead of a lot and then returning to further distress some areas once I got the hang of it. Thinking how authentic the costumes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy looked, I also erred on the side of subtlety overall; like Lucas did in shooting ANH, I wanted the weathering to just look right, and therefore to disappear — IE, everything should look well-used, not artificially (or over-) weathered. Reading The Making of Star Wars, which goes into all that stuff, was a big help.

After I’d done all of the sanding, I basically just beat each piece up for 30 minutes. I rolled and unrolled fastener straps (the heaviest-used parts of the bandolier and pouch) and belts; twisted belts into a coil in one direction, then the other; folded belts the long way, and then back; rolled everything up and stood on it; crumpled things in random directions; broke in all the surfaces; made the pouches less perfectly squared off; and generally just had a good time — this was a lot of fun, and I think it turned out well.

To achieve a naturally weathered and beaten-up look that I was happy with took me an hour per piece, so three hours total.

What I Skipped

While a droid caller, second bandolier (in place of the belt/pouch combo), and ion blaster with custom holster and power pack would have been awesome, I didn’t have the time or want to spend the money to do all that stuff this year. Using an actual Enfield rifle with grenade cup for the blaster, a Kobold flash unit for the caller, and a custom-made holster would have been expensive. I didn’t even know where to start for the power pack.

The slightly less expensive route is to use resin kit versions of the caller and blaster, which I found on eBay for around $20 and $60 respectively. Those would need a non-crappy paint job to really shine, though.

I also would have liked to be able to find convincing fur to stick on the wrists of the gloves, and to have had the time to do natural weathering on the robe and leather bits — IE, go roll around in the dirt — but I couldn’t make that happen this time around.

What It’s Like to Wear

This costume provoked great reactions — people loved it. After the amount of time, work, and money involved in making it, that rocked.

Most folks found the mask creepy, and it seemed to have about a 50/50 chance of frightening small children. My daughter Lark didn’t know what to make of it at first, but once I took off the hood and mask and she saw it was me, she got excited because she knew it was me under there.

On the flipside, it’s insanely hot to wear. The robe is heavy, which isn’t too bad, but the hood and mask combo gets miserable after about 10 minutes, as it features monk’s cloth, liner fabric, a cowl, and a fully covered mask you exhale into constantly.

Thanks for Reading!

I’m not a costumer, and in fact I usually really half-ass my Halloween costumes, but I’m glad for whatever put a bug up my ass about giving this costume a shot. It was a lot more work than I or Alysia expected, but it looks great and, I think, has most of the subtleties and authentic elements that make up a good screen-accurate Jawa costume.

I hope this tutorial was useful to you!