My (Very Small) Appendix N

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.

 

Creighton is the publisher at Raging Swan Press and the designer of the award winning adventure Madness at Gardmore Abbey. He has designed many critically acclaimed modules such as Retribution and Shadowed Keep on the Borderlands and worked with Wizards of the Coast, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat Press, Rite Publishing and Kobold Press.

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26 thoughts on “My (Very Small) Appendix N

  1. My brother got into Conan in the 80s but I never really did. Then a couple of years ago I started reading them and am loving them now. It’s interesting to note that until the 2000s you actually couldn’t get hold of the original versions of the stories, only the “improved” versions. I spent a chunk of the last two years playing the new 2d20 Conan RPG from Modiphius and I’ve loved bringing that world to life.

    I’m a latecomer too to HP Lovecraft, again my brother discovered him long before I did. I love his stories and have been running lots of Call of Cthulhu in the last couple of years. I really love the squishy nature of the investigators in that game.

  2. As always, a very fun and interesting article to read and ponder! I love your selections. I must admit I’m guilty of not picking up any non-career or gaming-related books in far too long, but, I luckily read a lot in my earlier days. My fantasy author top 3 would have to start with Tolkien, just because that’s how I was introduced into the world of fantasy. In terms of actual writing, I don’t think he’s my favorite, but nobody beats him when it comes to comprehensive, historical world building. Second on my list would be David Eddings, author of the Belgariad series and other related books. Certainly not as original and pioneering as Tolkien and others, but I loved his beautiful, descriptive writing style, and I feel he is the master of fantasy character development. Every character was so vividly dynamic, I actually despised some of the “good guys!” Rounding out my list would probably be Ursula le Guin, author of The Wizard of Earthsea trilogy. These books were nowhere close to the epic scope of other fantasy books, but I felt her take on the mystic intimacy of magic was entirely unique and fascinating. Possibly the easiest read I’ve experienced in the fantasy genre. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these authors if you’ve read their works!

    • If I was writing a broader Appendix N I would absolutely add the Wizard of Earthsea. While I haven’t thought of that trilogy for ages it was a beloved part of my teenage years (as was the Belgariad).

      I’m thinking I might have to buy these for my sons (as my eldest is an enthusiastic part of my gaming group even if his barbarian does have a glowing pink sword…)

  3. Hi Creighton,

    it is difficult to narrow down to a list of three, but…

    Roger Zelazny
    Brian Stableford
    Terry Pratchett

    The funny thing about HPL is I detest his writing, but I love the Call Of Cthulhu RPG!

  4. Robert Lynn Asprin – Myth Adventures, Phule’s Company
    John Ringo – The Council Wars Series
    Piers Anthony – Xanth Series

    The humor and craziness infect my worlds 🙂

    • “Piers Anthony – Xanth Series”

      Oh, I totally forgot about this. Scanning through the titles on Amazon, I remember reading (and really enjoying!) the first five books from this series.

      I may need to pick these up as well.

  5. Glen Cook, primarily the Blac Company, but all of it.

    Lois McMaster Bujold, Spirit Ring is good, The Sharing Knife Series is awesome, but the Chalion novels and novellas are amazing.

    Jim Butcher and The Dresden Files. What can I say? I love Gandalf on crack and Red Bull.

  6. As always, your articles are a great read. Without waxing too lyrical about the why’s and wherefore’s, I dive right in and list my top three authors from my own Appendix N, in no particular order:
    Tolkien
    Feist
    Asimov
    Kind regards, and enjoy the December holiday (if you’re privileged to have a break).

  7. I love fantasy, but favorite author by far is: Patrick O’Brian… No greater series of adventures and wonderful history and stories of friendship. (Might be fantasy close to reality on a good day)
    In the world of fantasy…Too many to list that are loved at all but recently (last 7 years) might be Michael Sullivan’s 2 trilogies, Jim Butcher’s Dresden series and Kevin Hearnes Iron Druid series and also the Benedict Jacka Alex Verses, and Brent Weeks series
    Enjoyed many many others Terry Brooks, Terry Pratchett, Goodkind, Tolkein (reread every 7-10 years), and the classics u mention of course but classics like Moorcock also in the classic line Piers Anthony, Stephen R Donaldson, David Eddings…
    -I have reread many over the years…
    Honorable mention to the TinTin adventures as a child…

  8. Sadly, I am not much of a reader. I typically do enjoy it, once I get started, but always seem to avoid it (probably because, when I do read, I do so at a painfully slow pace). I did read a bit in my youth, and these were probably my three favorites:

    J.R.R. Tolkien: The Hobbit
    Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman: Dragonlance Chronicles
    Joel Rosenberg: Guardians of the Flame series

    (Note: While much of the material, in current society, is considered wildly inappropriate, I absolutely loved the first book in the series — The Sleeping Dragon — and how he transported his players into the actual fantasy world, as their characters! A part of me always wished that was somehow possible… and a part of me still does.)

    While I am now an adult, and an admitted non-reader, I still do seem to accumulate a lot of books — electronically.

    * Howard’s complete Conan collection is only 99-cents on Amazon for the Kindle (which I just read using the online reader app (https://read.amazon.com/), and the app on my phone, without an actual Kindle device);
    * I’m not even sure if I’m interested in his works, and know next to nothing about the Cuthulu books (or game), but I did purchase Lovecraft’s complete collection for the Kindle since it is also very reasonably priced;
    * ‘Priest’ and ‘Thief,’ Matt Colville’s first two “Ratcatchers” books;
    * I also purchased the first six books of the ‘Legend of Drizzt Series’ series by Salvatore.

    Who knows when (or even if) I’ll actually read all of the above, but they’re there, in my arsenal, and I at least *plan* on reading them someday. Or maybe I’ll just re-read the Dragonlance Chronicles or Guardians of the Flame series again, as an adult, to see how well they resonate with me?

  9. I’m an old-timer having started D&D in the late 70s during college so my top authors, at least as it relates to fantasy and gaming, are from around that period. They are:

    * Tolkein for Lord of the Rings, but also for all the detailed background books that showed me what a ‘real’ fantasy world could look like. Not to say I read all of those background books. I’ve been picking them up recently for Kindle at $2.99 a book so maybe someday I will.

    * Roger Zelazny starting with the Amber series which showcased a different kind of fantasy world filled with interesting characters. Eventually I read almost all of his books and short stories and loved his way with words and experimental styles. Lord of Light and Creatures of Light and Darkness are a couple of my favorites.

    * Glen Cook’s Dread Empire series introduced me to his writing and his Black Company series was a landmark fantasy series that made a gritty world with the focus on the ‘grunts’ of the story come alive.

    I’ve been enjoying many of the new fantasy authors, but these three were the biggest influences in my more formative days.

  10. Ahhh Appendix N, it brings me joy to think of it.

    These are at the top of the list for shaping my sense of DnD, and more broadly my obsession with Fantasy when I was younger.
    Elric of Melnibone (basically anything by M. Moorcock)
    Conan, all the way!
    Fafrhd and Gray Mouser, F. Leiber
    Thieves World books
    Vlad Taltos, S. Brust
    Black Company
    Sword of Shannara
    Thomas Convenant books
    LotR
    Horseclans, R. Adams
    David Eddings
    Mercedes Lackey

  11. Daughter of Empire is such a fantastic book, I wish the other two were as good. But I did get to meet Janny Wurts at Dragon*Con several years back and tell her how much I loved DoE.

    Conan remains among my favorites, Howard’s style remains a fairly unique voice.

    Lovecraft build so many of the tropes of modern horror (tentacles among them) that I fear modern readers do not appreciate his writings.

    My Appendix N for the Sea of Stars is sightly longer.

  12. I got interested in AD&D after reading the Hobbit, so I gotta put Tolkien at the top. Followed up by Moorcock, because I loved Elric.

    I’ve actually never read Conan.

    The first 10 bo was gooks of the Xanth series was great, and I loved the Shannarah series and I love the Dresden Files, but it’s hard to chose a third favorite.

  13. Tolkien is by far my no one. I remember my parents having a lot of his works in their library. In english – a huge part of helping me learn english on my own.

    In Denmark their are now a days a lot of young adult fantasy books, but back in the early nineties it was Dennis Jürgensen who took me to the lands of Kvæhl. It was fun, scary and i kept going to the school library to check them out again and again.

    a third is also a danish writer, Lars-Henrik Olsen. Erik and the Gods: Journey to Valhalla, is a tale that places an ordinary boy into the Nordic pantheon and in a way retells some of the old stories.

    Thank you for a great gateway to reminiscing about the early days of geeking – years before I saw any actual role-playing action.

  14. I’ve discovered the joys of Jack Vance. Not only the Dying Earth stories, but Big Planet/Showboat World. Given that D&D games are far more picaresque than traditional stories, it’s a perfect fit. Rogueish, immoral characters, out to make their way in a corrupt world.

    Lovecraft, of course, as well as Fritz Leiber and RE Howard (I was able to visit his home in Cross Plains, Texas. It’s amazing to stare at the very spot he wrote his stories!).

    Abraham Merritt is also on my list, as is Manly Wade Wellman. Wellman wrote many stories set in the mountainous region of the Southeast United States, commonly called “Appalachia.” Because he was from that area, his use of language is very authentic, and he relies on local folklore as the basis for several of his stories. I like local folklore, even if it’s not my local area! (I like unique monsters.) His John Thunstone character would do well in a Call of Cthulhu game (minus the requisite insanity).

    Naturally, there are other authors I enjoy reading (such as William Hope Hodgson), but this list focuses on those authors who help shape the type of game I try to run and the type I enjoy. Appendix N, after all, wasn’t just “here’s a list of cool authors.” It was a literary map of influences upon the D&D game.

    One downside, though, is that most modern authors don’t seem to measure up! Luckily, I’ve assembled a decent collection, thanks in part to a resurgence of interest in Appendix N authors. My next goal is to round out my Burroughs collection.

  15. Hey, a REALLY interesting take on magic was done by Blake Charlton – in the Spellwright trilogy. He’s nowhere as prolific as your App N examples, but character development and novel approach to casting is well worth the look.

  16. It’s easy to get stuck into thinking that the sole property of magic carpets is flight. I’ve found E. Hoffman Price’s magic carpet stories a source of inspiration for other ways to work a magic carpet into a campaign.

  17. Surprised no one mentioned Jack L. Chalker. The Dancing Gods series of books really kept me interested, and I’ve read them a few times over the last couple decades. On a side note, I purchased all the Dragonlance books as audiobooks a couple years back. Play them in the car on my commute for work until they were spent. Now I’m thinking the Dancing Gods books might be the next audiobook subject for my commute.

    Also not fantasy so much, but excellent for world building and character dynamics is the Chanur Series by C. J. Cherryh.

    Lastly, I don’t know why, I keep rereading this one book by Thomas T. Thomas titled ME: A Novel of Self-Discovery. Perhaps it’s because I’m so very interested and impatient for artificial intelligence to finally arrive, but I think it’s more because I’m actually caught up by the lead character in the story as something I can relate to.

    I’ve also read many books by Eddings, Weber, Anthony, Farmer, Niven, Asimov, Herbert, Weiss & Hickman, Card, and Bear among a whole host of others… I have several tall bookcases at home loaded with novels. Each shelf has them stacked two books standing high and two deep from side to side (and some of the shelves are bowing from the weight). I must have a several hundred novels at this point as I’ve not ever sold or thrown one out after reading it, and also sadly I haven’t bought a new novel in more than a decade. I’ve just been carrying these same books around starting mid-1980.