Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Terminate All Anomalous Organisms Detected With Extreme Prejudice!

I knew Jon Mollison had written a Gamma World style post-apocalyptic story, but I was surprised by just how much his tale tracked with events in my own gaming sessions. Both featured mutant humanoid badgers (aka “badders” in the game), both featured factions demanding tribute from the players, both featured groups of mutants combing the wasteland for “True Men” in order to capture and sell them, and both featured robots saying stuff like, “ANALYSIS COMPLETE. ANOMALIES DETECTED: ZERO.”

But this book also shows things I only tantalized my players with in my campaign. We get an in depth look at not just a surviving off-world colony, but also a brutal mutant humanoid society as well. And as to the stuff I wouldn’t tend to think of dropping into a continuing campaign at all: the steamy pulp romance of A. Merritt and Leigh Brackett and the exploration of contrasting societies that is more typical in classic “hard” style science fiction by guys like Asimov and Heinlein.

The result is something that is anything but derivative or formulaic. In an age that is dominated by remakes, reboots, and prequels, this is a nice change of pace. Try it out for yourself and see. Grab a copy today!



More Reviews for Appendix N

Just in the past couple of weeks there has been another spate of reviews for Appendix N pop up on Amazon:

“This is an utterly perfect nostalgic feast for Grognards. Or an archaeological wonderland for those too young to find all those books we saw in the appendix when we were kids.” — Nascendant

“A whirlwind tour through the authors and books of the famous Appendix N of the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide. Not only does author Jeffro Johnson opine on the books he reads (selecting at least one book from authors who were listed in the appendix without any example books), he also talks about their impact on the Dungeons and Dragons game (the first one, released in 1975) and subsequent versions of the game — Advanced or ‘Basic.’ Even more than that, though, Johnson deftly delivers gaming tips to prospective Dungeon Masters who can use plot elements from the books to inform their own games. A terrific work and am positively thrilled that he wants to do what I want to do: preserve literature from the last century and not bury it. Too often people think of D&D as being totally informed by Tolkien and ‘Tolkienesque’ elements when there were several other authors whose works influenced original D&D co-creators Dave Arneson and E. Gary Gygax. This will get a second read, for sure.” — Michael Gross

“Not only was this book highly informative, it is often hilarious. Jeffro Johnson does an outstanding job of breaking down and analyzing the books of Appendix N. Further, I found myself applying some of his thoughts on the matter to many of my games in ways that I never originally did with the original list. Each piece is well-written and as entertaining as the books themselves. Like an excellent critic, he brings new ideas to light about the areas he is reviewing. And while reading, I was often cracking up. His wit is excellent. I can’t recommend this book enough…not just for DnD players or DM’s but regular readers as well.” — J. Gates

This is of course very gratifying and it means a great deal. I really am astonished by this level of praise.

This doesn’t happen very often, but I actually am speechless for once. I don’t know what else to say to this except, “thank you!”

So: thank you!

Only Rebel Can Save Comics

Not sure what it is about this character that gets so many people’s panties in a bunch, but it’s real. Me? I can’t get enough of her. She’s just so danged fun!

And yeah, you can go read the pulps for yourselves and see all the things that could be taken for granted as normal back then that are utterly beyond the capacity of creators today to make. Chief among my favorites would be John Carter of Mars, the Confederate cavalryman whose increased strength at ability to leap prodigiously would provide the template for the rationale of Superman’s abilities.

It does strike be as being more than a bit odd: the number of things that are unthinkable grows every day. Far from the spirit of the “dangerous visions” of seventies science fiction, everything from Gone With the Wind to the Dukes of Hazzard is suddenly supposed to be across the line. This is a world where Apple and Amazon will ban historical wargames that utilize the Confederate flag.

Utterly asinine.

This sort of weird cultural aggression is not just dangerous and creepy. The sort of limitations on expression it embodies is absolute death to creativity and imagination. Sure, people are going to line up to explain that you really shouldn’t go out of your way to violate the demands of today’s commissars of correctness or the “normies” that live in fear of accidentally offending them. I would argue that those days are gone. There simply isn’t a whole lot of space to fall back on at this point. They’ve already called us every bad name they can think of. And far from being the sort that can simply live and let live, they can’t even be appeased.

The fact that something that would have been completely unexceptional forty years ago causes them to literally start shaking isn’t really my problem. But if that’s the way they want it, that’s the way they’re going to get it.

Appendix N and the Good News of Gaming

You know, this whole journey into the literary antecedents of D&D was motivated more than anything else by a desire to get more enjoyment out of the game. So I can’t tell you how pleased I was to get this feedback the other day:

As someone who read LOTR before encountering DnD, I can’t say I found them to have anything much in common, with the exception of the word “elf” and the concept of “halflings”.

It was only later, approaching DnD as a very different thing and finally, reading Jeffro’s Appendix N, that DnD became something fun rather than frustrating, and then began to make actual sense.

The notion of Clerics or even paladins is completely foreign to Middle Earth, as is the spell caster per-se, and the range of DnD spells in particular. Summoning, planar cosmology, etc, are all at 180 degrees to Middle Earth.

That’s just plain awesome.

And I’m not joking when I say this, but I’ve heard accounts of what people’s D&D sessions were like before they read my book. It’s not pretty, y’all. But the thing is… there are things that people took for granted back in the seventies that are nearly unimaginable today. Fortunately, getting into the head-space of that first wave of designers Dungeon Masters, and referees is not just mind blowing. It’s a lot of fun– not just for you, but for your players, too!

Now… one thing I didn’t see coming as I delved into all of this was that… not everyone would be open to the Good News of Great Gaming. I know, that sounds crazy, but it’s true! One crowd I’ve had a particularly hard time getting along with are the sort of people that are really heavy into old school “hard” style of science fiction. And this is freaky, but… the books on Appendix N represent an oeuvre that this tribe has been at war with for so long and at such a degree of efficiency that most people don’t even know that something happened to rewrite the history of fantasy and science fiction.

Usually I get a lot of guff from this crowd. But very recently, something different happened. Someone that had read not just mass quantities of science fiction by also scads of books from the Appendix N list got confronted by a thesis from my book. This was all recorded, so you can actually hear this guy as he starts to connect the dots on a very big story.

It’s epic. Check it out:

Appendix N: An Amazing and Rewarding Journey

Praise for Appendix N continues to roll in!

This article over at Shop on the Borderlands drops this particularly nice shout-out:

If you look around on the internet, you’ll find plenty of other articles about Appendix N, including plenty of reviews of the (sometimes obscure) works listed. I would particularly recommend Jeffro Johnson’s work, including his excellent book “Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons”. Johnson has a true appreciation for the style of writing typified by Appendix N, and for old school roleplaying.

Meanwhile, I’ve pulled down yet another five star review over at Goodreads with this entry from “DNF with Jack Mack”:

While reading The greatest Modules of All time, I discovered a lefthand D&D path I hadn’t pursued, having been lured away by the Advanced label. This path was mostly Arneson and largely Science-Fantasy. Disappointed by Fourth Ed., I switched to DCC. Goodman’s Game had been inspired by Appendix N, so I followed suit. It’s an amazing and rewarding journey that I am still on.

I had a blast reading Johnson’s book, and I was shocked to discover how much our views are in accord– considering how fussy I usually am. I’d recommend this to anyone with an interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I’d wager there are less than two thousand living people who have completed this quest, so it’s remarkable that Jeffro would write such a thing. Salud.

Join us: the few, the well read, the Appendix N’s!

Meanwhile gaming legend Ken St. Andre recently dropped this on Twitter:

“I got a copy of Appendix N from @CastaliaHouse in the mail yesterday. Well written and researched–almost too much knowledge there.”

(Okay, that last one especially blows me away. Wow!)

If you haven’t already picked up a copy… now’s the time! It’s not only a survey of a great many lost treasures of fantasy and science fiction, but also details their relationship to some of the most iconic works in tabletop gaming.

Check it out!