Appendix N, OD&D, and Me

When I was a little boy, I was a voracious reader (still am!). One of my favorite places in the whole world was a little room in the corner of my grandparents’ basement, where my uncles all took turns living, as teenagers. On one wall was a set of home-made bookshelves that were filled with science-fiction and fantasy novels from the 50s and 60s. I believe that by the age of ten I had read all of Heinlein, Aasimov and Burroughs. Before I even got to Tolkien, Howard, Ellison and Lovecraft.

I learned about Dungeons & Dragons when I was in 7th grade, probably 1982. My friends had been given the Basic rules by older brothers that were going off to college. We fell in love with it all, the idea of this kind of game was so far beyond anything we knew. Better than a movie or a TV show or a book. Our imaginations were boundless and the sky was the limit!

We all took turns running Hack’n’Slash – Monty Haul – (and after we found Expedition to the Barrier Peaks!) – Sci-fi mashup campaigns. So much fun. After college, when I had my own place and a job (that paid money!) I started playing again, ran two campaigns for two different groups, but both in the same world. they lasted about two years. Of course we did all the usual stuff: trying new classes from Dragon Magazine, tossing in ideas from Rolemaster and MERP, stealing powers and spell ideas from Champions. Then, as today, it was our table and we played how we wanted.

Then I got into miniature figures and tabletop wargaming. Played and played and before I knew it, 20-some years had gone by!

I haven’t played much of anything over the past few years, with moving around the country and jobs and all. But recently we moved, yet again, and I took a minute to look in some boxes I’d been lugging around for years. There was my old PHB and DMG and Greyhawk Gazeteer! So many memories. Why not take a look and see what is what with the hobby?

What a Difference a Generation Makes

So here I am now, all these years later, and I’m digging into the D&D I never really knew and understood. Playing catch-up on twenty years’ worth of game theory, scholarship and creativity. And also playing catch up on some other reading I’d never gotten around to: some of the resources in the old DMG – Appendix N.

I have to say, I love these old books, not only because they aren’t 600-page epics like the modern novel, but because I can read them and see their influence on so many other books, authors, and ultimately, the game of D&D itself. So, I took a look at that list and started gathering the books I hadn’t read, purely in the order in which people were discussing them online. Then, Oh! Look! Jeffro Johnson has a whole book about the books of Appendix N! How very meta.

I ordered it and when it was delivered on day 32 of the Plague Quarantine, I shared a pic on Twitter. One of my peeps asked if I’d share my thoughts as I went along… and that sounds like fun. So here we are!

As I read through each section of Johnson’s tome, I’ll pop in here and leave a few sentences on the Appendix N tag, with my thoughts and reactions. I have not read all of these books (and I must say I’m jealous of Jeffro Johnson!), yet, so how about if I start with the books I have read, then we’ll come back and discuss which books I should read next, based on what Johnson has to say in his review and analysis.

The first book and commentary I’m going to look at will be Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson, starting off this series on Monday.

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