The 1979 Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide is a milestone in the history of the roleplaying hobby. A quantum leap in terms of scale, scope and information on Dungeons and Dragons from previous offerings and editions, it was an essential volume for any Dungeon Master at the time. The book is a folio of wonders, and is a delight to flip through, even if I have not run a straight Advanced Dungeons and Dragons game in many years. For example, the art of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is a real treat, from small illustrations like a farmer running from a giant insectoid Ankheg, to bits of humor (The mickey mouse ear wearing adventurers are hilarious, to some absolutely gorgeous full page illustrations.
The Dungeon Master’s Guide, as you might expect, includes information on an often bewildering array of subjects that I’ve used then, and now. Magic item lists? Check. Strange Artifacts (including how to roll your own)? Yep. Want to create a random dungeon? Rules for that. Random encounter table for a fantasy city? Got those, too. [You, too, can have your player characters run into a Weretiger. 1 percent chance!] How long does it take for an armorer to make plate mail? Yep, a chart for that. [90 days].
There is also some extremely weird information that never entered any game I ran or ever heard of anyone using. Saving Throws for magical and non magical items. Types of Insanity. The Humanoid Racial Preferences Table [Did you know that Trolls and Hobgoblins hate each other and your Evil Overlord should not be keeping them near each other?] The chances of your player’s characters getting a parasitic infection. [base 3 percent chance per month, before modifiers.] And much more.
And then there is the heart of the matter for today’s column, Appendix N.
Appendix N is labeled “Inspirational and Educational Reading”. It’s a list of fantasy works that inspired Gary Gygax and company in their creation of D&D. Paul S. Kemp has an appreciation, and a list of the books from the original Appendix N.
After he posted his blog post (which was partly inspired in turn by a conversation on Twitter that he and I were a part of), it occurred to me that Appendix N is an extremely valuable resource for going “old school” with your fantasy fiction. However, since the Dungeon Master’s Guide was written in 1979, that leaves a couple additional decades of books modern readers and gamers may not have heard of, are not in Appendix N, but are worthy of attention. And especially for Game masters, source material to beg, borrow and steal from.
So, herein, I set to lay out an add-on for Appendix N, and cover more recent books that, if Appendix N were written today by Gygax, would be in it. Appendix “N-Squared”. These are books that have influenced my gaming, books from which I have plucked kernels.
My boundary conditions for selection are heroic fantasy books intended for fantasy gamers that were written from 1980 to 2007. I don’t think more recent works than that have had the time to firm themselves up as classics. Some of the series listed below extend beyond 2007, of course, and some are still ongoing. And yes, I am aware that in the last few years, a swath of authors that may be on a “Appendix N-cubed” have emerged, especially in the resurgent subgenre of sword and sorcery. Time will tell.
- Joe Abercrombie: The First Law and sequels
- Greg Bear: The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage
- Steven Brust: The Vlad Taltos series, and the Khaavren duology
- Jim Butcher: The Furies of Calderon
- C.J. Cherryh: The Morgaine Saga: [Gate of Ivrel and sequels]
- Glen Cook: The Black Company series [The Black Company and sequels]
- Steven R. Donaldson: The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant [Lord Foul’s Bane and sequels]
- Dave Duncan: The King’s Blade series [The Gilded Chain and sequels]
- Kate Elliott: The Crown of Stars series [King’s Dragon and sequels]
- Steven Erikson: The Gardens of the Moon
- Raymond E. Feist: The Riftwar Saga [Magician and sequels]
- Mary Gentle: Grunts!
- Robin Hobb: The Farseer Trilogy [Assassin’s Apprentice and sequels]
- J.V. Jones: The Sword of Shadows series [A Cavern of Black Ice and sequels]
- Scott Lynch: The Lies of Locke Lamora
- George R.R. Martin: A Game of Thrones
- Julian May: The Saga of Pliocene Exile [The Many Colored Land and sequels]
- L.E. Modesitt, Jr.: The Saga of Recluce [The Magic of Recluce and sequels]
- Elizabeth Moon: The Deed of Paksenarrion [Sheep Farmer’s Daughter and sequels]
- Joel Rosenberg: The Guardians of the Flame series [The Sleeping Dragon and sequels]
- Fred Saberhagen: The Books of the Swords and The Books of the Lost Swords sequences
- Martha Wells: The Element of Fire and City of Bones
- Tad Williams: Memory, Sorrow, Thorn [The Dragonbone Chair and sequels]
So what books have I missed? What books of mine should NOT be on this list?