Appendix N in Retrospect
After this web log’s sporadic (perhaps, from your perspective, interminable) consideration of the authors listed in the Dungeon Masters Guide Appendix N, perhaps some sort of summation is required. What do I think of the list? What do I think of its application to the Dungeons and Dragons game?
With few reservations, I applaud the list and recommend at least some of the works by the included authors. Notably excluded is Margaret St. Clair. Others (Gary Gygax, obviously) enjoy her writing. But otherwise, Appendix N gets the Ken Lizzi seal of approval. The material is primarily pulp; a good thing from my perspective. It runs the gamut from rather disposable, light entertainment to quality work of rather high literary value. Let’s call it a Fox to Vance scale, but don’t let that lead you to believe I am disparaging Gardner Fox. I like disposable, light entertainment.
I’m hardly through with these writers simply because I’ve checked off each on web log post. In fact my current workout book is a collection of Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure novels. There remains a great deal of solid enjoyment to derive from Appendix N, not limited to re-reading what is already on my shelves.
Does the influence of Appendix N appear in D&D? I suppose that varies from table to table, and — perhaps most importantly — on what edition you play. I may be wrong here, but it seems to me that the current of play has driven the game to a narrower, generic vision than Gygax’s as laid out in First Edition AD&D. Many of the tropes borrowed from Appendix N were left behind in eddies and slower currents (where you’ll find the table I play at.) The sheer, almost gonzo, variety of pulp material has been discarded, leaving a game more resembling an anime version of the Lord of the Rings, more focused on story-telling and character development than on exploration, problem solving, and tactical combat. And if that’s your thing, then kampai. But I think the spirit of Appendix N is attenuated in such games, virtually non-existent. A new Appendix N is probably in order for newer editions (and perhaps exists. I don’t know.)
I’ll leave exploration of such newer lists to others. This old dog is happy with his old tricks. And his old Appendix.