I love books, and I’m a voracious reader. Like you, I expect, I’ve read thousands of fiction and non-fiction books. Some were good, and some were bad. The influence of three authors, though, on my writing and gaming style stand head and shoulders above the rest.
In regards to gaming, I’m a product of my time. I grew up with 1st Edition AD&D. Funnily enough, I hadn’t read any books by my three favourite fantasy authors before I started gaming. However, it turned out two of them are in Gary’s famous Appendix N. Clearly I enjoyed their writing style before I’d read any of their books. I’m fortunate Gary also enjoyed their writing style, and he crafted a game near perfectly suited to my preferred playing style.
At the end of Appendix N, Gary lists the authors he feels had the most influence on AD&D. Two of these are H.P. Lovecraft and R.E. Howard. Shortly after discovering gaming, I found my first Conan book and was hooked on Howard’s dynamic, visceral writing style. Conan was awesome and I read as many of his stories as I could. I vividly remember haunting used book shops looking for books I didn’t yet have. (As an aside, I miss used book shops).
The second of my top three authors I discovered while at school, and he is not on the list. In fairness I don’t like all his books—I think after the initial six he went off the boil a bit, and they got samey—but his first two trilogies propelled my imagination to new heights. I am, of course, talking about Raymond E. Feist and his Riftwar trilogy (Magician, Silverthorn and A Darkness at Sethanon) and the complimentary Empire trilogy (Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire and Mistress of the Empire) along with co-author Janny Wurts. (So, I guess that makes it four favourite fantasy authors!)
What was even better for me about the Riftwar trilogy was that the books were based on Feist’s Dungeons & Dragons campaign. As a teenager, I dreamt of playing in such a campaign, and I liberally stole elements from it for my own game.
I can’t remember exactly when I first discovered H.P. Lovecraft. I was aware of the Call of Cthulhu RPG shortly after I fell into gaming, but I’m not sure exactly when I started reading his stories. In the 80s, White Dwarf ran articles and adventures for many systems. Beyond AD&D, Call of Cthulhu often appeared until the magazine switched over to only covering Games Workshop games. The flavour and atmosphere of the adventures seemed incredible to me. I even purchased a Call of Cthulhu boxed set at a convention in London, but I could never find enough people to play the game.
Now, of course, I realise Everything is Better with Tentacles, and I’ve got H.P. to thank for that!
I’ve been thinking about writing an Appendix N style post for ages, but I never seem to get around to it. There are so many books and only so much time. I’m not sure I could distil three decades of reading into an extended list. Where would I draw the line? So I think, for the moment, I’ll leave it here. However, if you forced me to pick a fifth author I’d go with J.R.R Tolkien for the Lord of the Rings (I’m not such a huge fan of The Hobbit).
What’s in your Appendix N? Let me know, in the comments below.