Appendix N was quite a bit more than just “filler”. It was an acknowledgement of where large swaths of the AD&D game came from, from spell components to spell memorization to alignment and even the planar cosmology. Traveller has a similar list of sources, and let me tell you… it kind of stinks that they were never cited directly within the game booklets. Arguably, that’s all academic, sure. But at the end of the day, it is what it is. Like Appendix N author Leigh Brackett’s contribution to Star Wars, it should neither be blown out of proportion nor artificially diminished.
But is gaming enlightenment in the cards for anyone that dives into the works that inspired D&D? Well look, there are a great many things in D&D that always looked weird to me back in the day. I kind of like having a better understanding of why things were done like they were. Just as one example of that, the white ape monster in my battered copy of Moldvay Basic went from lame to uber cool when my son pointed out to me where it came from. I wouldn’t characterize that as “enlightening” per se. And sure, you don’t need this sort of thing to make a good game. But if you’re looking to go back to the axioms of classic role-playing and then go in a slightly different direction… this sort of information is invaluable. How many people genuinely want to do that? You’re talking hundreds of people and not thousands– a small number of people within a small hobby that is dwarfed by video gaming. No big deal.
Did people care about Appendix N back in the day? Yes they did. Appendix N was synonymous with fantasy in the seventies. When people sat down to “play anything”, they wanted to play characters from those books. The books provided the frame of reference needed to explain the class archetypes when the idea of role-playing was brand new. And when designers decided that some aspect of the game was incorrect or needed development, it was the “authority” of those authors that often drove the creation process. Again, this is largely academic at this point. If it’s not fun for you, go do whatever floats your boat.
But for some people, this is a lot of fun.
I helped compile that list. They were not just Gary’s favorites. We both had nominations that did not make the list in the end.
We made that list for two reasons. The first was an encouragement to read; both Gary and I were sort of annoying in that regard.
The second was in response to a slew of questions that sort of boiled down to “Where are you (D&D) coming from?” We thought that if more people read Vance’s Dying Earth, for example, they would know where the memorizing your spells thing came from.
At that point in gaming history (sort of pretentious-sounding, I know) we were encouraging players to lift and modify things from books and movies; Appendix N was meant to serve as a starting point for good sources.
Havard wrote:Many of Gary's later statements about fantasy literature are clearly influenced by the commercial interests of TSR, including his negative opinion on Tolkien (TSR was involved in a legal battle with the Tolkien estate at the time) and his high praise of Fritz Leiber (Leiber was Gary's friend and allowed him to use the Lankhmar stuff in D&D). I wonder if one of the primary functions of Appendix N might not have been to send the Tolkien Estate a message?
Dartamian wrote:Havard wrote:Many of Gary's later statements about fantasy literature are clearly influenced by the commercial interests of TSR, including his negative opinion on Tolkien (TSR was involved in a legal battle with the Tolkien estate at the time) and his high praise of Fritz Leiber (Leiber was Gary's friend and allowed him to use the Lankhmar stuff in D&D). I wonder if one of the primary functions of Appendix N might not have been to send the Tolkien Estate a message?
Was wondering about this a little myself, so I cracked open the old DMG and looked up Appendix N, and Tolkien is listed with "The Hobbit" and "Ring Trilogy". Of course it is just one of many listed but still listed.
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