"Classic : a book which people praise and don't read."
– Mark Twain
The Appendix N.
I expect there are few persons of a certain age with a predilection towards tabletop gaming who are unaware of what that descriptive refers to.
For those who don’t, the question need be asked: What, exactly, is it? In short, it’s a list of fiction cited in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide, books and short stories that “inspired” the creation of Dungeons and Dragons.
It’s best described by its creator, E. Gary Gygax:
INSPIRATIONAL AND EDUCATIONAL READING
* I presume this to be “Entertaining Comics,” published from the 1940s through the mid-1950s, notable for Tales from the Crypt.
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. […]
Anderson, Poul. THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS; THE HIGH CRUSADE; THE BROKEN SWORD
Bellairs, John. THE FACE IN THE FROST
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
Farmer, P. J. "The World of the Tiers" Series; et al.
Fox, Gardner. "Kothar" Series; "Kyrik" Series; et al.
Howard, R. E. "Conan" Series
Lanier, Sterling. HIEROS 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)
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.
Wellman, Manly Wade.
Zelazny, Roger. JACK OF SHADOWS; "Amber" Series; et al.
[DMG 1e – 224]
E. Gary Gygax’s list has provoked much discussion over the decades – in print, on YouTube, in person – as it should, insofar as, I believe, no other game book had ever done such a thing before it. That, itself, was groundbreaking. Moreover, it inspired others to build upon it, as Tom Moldvay did in 1980 in the initial B/X Boxed Set, expounded upon again in 5e’s Players Handbook’s “Appendix E.”
Shall I weigh in on Gygax’s, or Moldvay’s, or the lengthy 5e list? I shall not – except in that the 5e list did not edit those original inclusions that are no longer accessible. I, unlike maybe some of you, have not read the list in its entirety, nor will I ever, for the reason noted above: A number of its entries are no longer in print. I have read Robert E Howard’s “Conan” series to completion, so to Fritz Leiber’s "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series. I’ve read a great deal of Moorcock (Elric and Corum, and a couple other Eternal Champion stories); Tolkien’s “Hobbit,” Ring trilogy, “The Silmarillion,” and “Unfinished Tales;” and I believe all H.P. Lovecraft’s published works. That’s not much, considering the breadth of Gygax’s list, some of which I have read nothing at all. Thus, I cannot present myself as an expert. Nor will I ever be. To read his list in total would take more months than I would care to invest, now. The 5e expanded list could, in fact, take years; moreover, it is likely that a great deal of it will probably not be to my present taste. Fantasy literature took a turn in the 1980s towards ever faster, more explicitly violent fare than I preferred. That’s not necessarily bad, per say (I was a big fan of the Black Company), but it’s not necessarily good either, if one is inclined towards the mythic, as I was (I read a great deal of Celtic fantasy and what might be called eldritch fiction). TSR novels, interesting at first, being what they were, soon paled in my imagination for just that reason. I moved on, returning on occasion; but my TBR wish is long, and time seems rather more finite now than it once was.
By that definition, Bebergal got it right, judging from this paragraph from the eponymous appendix:
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. [DMG 1e – 224]
I was curious to see what Bebergal chose to illustrate his point.
Published in 2020, Bebergal’s book is a collection of short stories – 17 in all – that claims to explore that very eldritch nature of the list. It does, to my mind … to an extent. It is by no means inclusive: Not all the authors cited above are included, but one might suggest that the most important are: REH, Leiber, Vance, and HPL. Notable exclusions are Camp & Pratt, and Merritt. Why were they omitted? Perhaps their estates declined his request to include them in his collection. But where their works are missing, others – who many might suggest ought to have been in Gygax’s list – are, specifically Clark Ashton Smith. As are more contemporary authors like Tanith Lee. Most are from the 1930s and 1970s, the most recent from 1983 (a poem), the oldest from 1908 (Lord Dunsany).
|Adventuring in a Bygone Age|
Did I like them? I did. I’d read a few before. Most were first reads. I did not, however, care for Fred Saberhagen’s poem, “The Song of Swords,” nor Frank Brunner’s graphic comic, “Sword of Dragonus,” which seemed a pale and paltry version of REH’s Conan, in my opinion. I suspect I liked those I did because, as noted, I’ve always liked “eldritch” fiction. Leiber, Moorcock, and Lovecraft were especial favourites of mine in my youth. Not Conan, you ask? No. I’ve only recently read REH’s Conan stories, and my being more mature, and more widely read now than I was then, found many of them “shallow,” and “childish.” (Granted, they are pulp fiction, and one might call pulp an artform in its own right. Not all are childish, though. I thought “Beyond the Black River” extraordinary.) Most of these stories are not shallow or childish; most are exactly what appealed to my younger self, and thus appeal to my older nostalgic self, although not all are as artful or skillful as others.
Is this collection worth the money? I believe so. It is a good time capsule, certainly, a nice cross-selection of literary styles across decades. Younger readers beware, though; I imagine that these stories are not your usual cup of tea. Maybe that is a good thing.
Appendix N. cover: When the Mind is Open the Tower will Appear, by Arik Roper
B3 The Palace of the Silver Princess cover art, by Erol Otus, 1981
Appendix N. The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons and Dragons, Peter Bebergal, editor
2011A Dungeon Masters Guide, 1st Ed., 1979