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Books Reading Appendix N

Grognard Games’ introduction to Appendix N

Martin Brown from Grognard Games produced a great short video introduction to Appendix N, the influence the works therein in had on D&D — from thieves and paladins to plane-hopping and alignment — and the inspiration those works can provide today.

It’s a bit surreal for me, though: He’s called Martin as well, and is also English, and I recognize an awful lot of the books on his shelves, but he’s handsomer than me and introduces Appendix N much better than I could. I’m also officially jealous of his bookshelves.

All that aside, you should watch this. It’s quite good.

(Thanks to Erik Tenkar of Tenkar’s Tavern for the link.)

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Books Reading Appendix N

Appendix N: 20 down, 80 to go

I finished Fritz Leiber’s The Swords of Lankhmar this morning — my 20th Appendix N book. I’m not a fast reader, or perhaps more accurately I’m not a hurried reader, so tackling all 100 books of Appendix N is going to take me a while.

“Swords” took longer than the other Lankhmar books to date because it’s over-long, slow in places, and was competing with a minor detour: The Annotated Hobbit (paid link). I’ve read The Hobbit before (and posted about it for this project), but never this edition and not for many years.

After that, it’s back to Lankhmar for the last Appendix N Leiber tale, Swords and Ice Magic, and then most likely on to the post-Appendix N volume of the series, The Knight and Knave of Swords. 20% complete might not sound like much, but it’s a fun milestone — and I’m looking forward to the other 80%, too!

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Books Reading Appendix N

Other Appendices N

Since I first posted about Reading Appendix N, I’ve been pointed to several similar reading lists that are either contemporary with Appendix N or related to it in some other way. None of them are additions to Appendix N — to date, Gary’s 2007 additions are the only ones I’ve found — but they’re all interesting for their own reasons.

The first two were written by Gary, one predating Appendix N and one written much later; the second two were written by Tom Moldvay and Steve Winter, respectively. Let’s start with Gary’s two lists.

Dragon Magazine, Issue 4

Published in 1976, this issue of Dragon came out three years before Appendix N, and it’s essentially a proto-Appendix N. Squished into one corner of a page showing recent fantasy miniature releases, it lists 22 authors and roughly 30 specific titles, all of which appear in Appendix N — with one exception: Algernon Blackwood. I’m not at all familiar with his work, but he was apparently a writer of supernatural tales; he’s on my mental list to check out (in 2014 or so, when I finish reading Appendix N…).

In all other respects, this list is a subset of Appendix N. There’s no similar list in the original edition of D&D, nor in the Holmes edition, so I believe this list in Dragon #4 may be the first D&D reading list. As the foundation of Appendix N, it’s a neat little piece of D&D history.

Mythus Magick

Mythus Magick (paid link) came out in 1992, 13 years after the DMG and Appendix N, and it offers up considerably more author recommendations but no specific title recommendations. Instead, Gary emphasizes particular authors as his favorites. There’s a huge amount of overlap with Appendix N authors on this list, as this excellent Grognardia post breaks down. (That post also includes the full list.)

About half of the authors are new (not included in Appendix N), and many of them are folks I don’t associate with sword and sorcery, sword and planet, weird tales, or the other kinds of books represented in Appendix N — Margaret Weis and Anne McCaffrey, for example. Gary also lists himself, which makes me smile.

The Moldvay Basic Set

The 1981 D&D Basic Set (paid link) — the “B” in the edition often called B/X — came out in 1981, just two years after Appendix N, and it includes one hell of a reading list. While this one is by Tom Moldvay, not Gary, it is in a D&D core book and it’s roughly contemporary with Appendix N.

What I like most about Moldvay’s list is that it’s broken down into categories: young adult fantasy, young adult non-fiction, adult fantasy, short story collections, and non-fiction. Given that B/X D&D makes a great gateway product for young adults and teens, devoting about 40% of this list to books aimed at them is an excellent idea. Of the four reading lists in this post, Moldvay’s is my favorite — and it’s huge, with roughly twice as many authors as Appendix N.

Star Frontiers

Star Frontiers (paid link) came out in 1982, three years after Appendix N was published. It focuses on science fiction, of course, and it’s a neat list in its own right.

It includes non-fiction as well as fiction, which I like, but I mention it here largely because there’s some overlap with Appendix N in terms of authors: Poul Anderson, Fredric Brown, L. Sprague de Camp, Philip José Farmer, Andre Norton, Fred Saberhagen, Jack Vance, and Roger Zelazny all appear on the Star Frontiers reading list.

Other Reading Lists

Lots of other gaming books include reading lists — GURPS books, for example, are justly famous for their killer bibliographies — but these four lists stood out to me because they have some connection, be it strong or weak, to Appendix N. They all look like they’re worth exploring, assuming the 100-book Appendix N reading list isn’t keeping you busy enough!

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Books Reading Appendix N

Gary Gygax’s 2007 additions to Appendix N

I’ve been curious whether Gary ever added anything to Appendix N post-1979, be it books he forgot to include or post-1979 works he would have included if he’d written the DMG later on.

So I did some digging and found this post Gary Gygax wrote on EN World in 2007, a bit more than a year before his death, which answers the latter question:

The fact is that I 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.
I would never add other media forms to a reading list. If someone is interested in comic books and.or graphic novels, they’re on their own.

Update: Over on Google+, James Maliszewski of Grognardia pointed me to another EN World thread (also from 2007) where Gary also adds one more series:

Frankly, I find very few new fantasy books in the general S&S vein worth reading. I do enjoy the “Diskworld” series, and Glen Cook’s “Black Company” novels are appealing to me. Those are about all that spring to mind. The fiction I have been reading these days is mostly murder mystery (I loved the “Judge Dee” series), historical (such as Cornwell’s various series), alternate history, and some re-reading of old fantasy & SF books.

Those are fascinating comments for all sorts of reasons, but let’s start with the books!

The new books

Here are links to Gary’s 2007 recommendations in the format I used for my 100-book Appendix N reading list:

Chronicles of the Black Company collects all three of these books.

The questions

At least as interesting to me, though, are the questions Gary’s comments raise.

Why Lanier’s later Hiero tale but not, say, the second series of Amber novels? Did Gary mean the early Discworld novels, which were partly sword and sorcery parodies, or the later ones where the world shades into more of a Renaissance-like period and the tone is markedly different? Why no comics, when Gary wrote “…countless hundreds of comic books went down, and the long-gone EC ones certainly had their effect” in the introduction to Appendix N?

I wish I’d been doing this project while Gary was still alive, because I’d love to ask him those questions. Not in a critical way, but out of genuine curiosity.

I’m also curious whether or not, as his comment implies to me, Gary’s take on D&D remained essentially unchanged between 1979 and 2007 — because if what D&D was to him did change, why wouldn’t his recommended reading list change as well? I’ve had a complicated up-and-down relationship with the game over the past 20-plus years, so perhaps my reading of his comment is colored by that.

If there are more threads out there like the ones I linked above, I’d love to find them. Gary was a prolific forum poster in the last years of his life, and I bet other folks asked him about Appendix N. I’m glad we have this record of his thoughts on the topic, though — and, if you want to add Gary’s 2007 recommendations to your Appendix N reading list, another few dozen books to read!

I’ve read every Discworld book with the exception of a couple of titles like the cookbook and history (Pratchett is my favorite author), the first couple Black Company novels, and a ton of Piers Anthony that, surprisingly, doesn’t include the ones Gary recommends. After I finish Appendix N, I’ll probably circle back and check out some of the titles from this mini-list.

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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.