Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Epic Ron Edwards Interview by Runeslinger

If you haven’t seen this, check it out.  It’s a massive amount of information on RPG design informed by illustrations of all kinds of actual play experience. Pure gold!

My Appendix N series comes up in the conversation at the end. I actually don’t think it’s the most interesting part, but it makes for a helluva bullet point. Yeah, my stuff is pretty much some personal notes of some kind of an weird gamer awakening. But the whole reason I’m writing is to help and/or inspire people to go kick open some doors. I never would have put it the way Ron Edwards does here, though. Sure sounds like something worth tackling!

Here’s the bit:

Ron Edwards: We’ve all become too ironic. We’ve all become too millennial if you will. Too mimetic. Too tropey oriented. And to recover– I mean you read Jeffro Johnson’s blog, as I recall?

Runeslinger: Yeah yeah.

Ron Edwards: And watching him go through his realizations as he reads those books. And finally realizes what he’s reading. That He’s not reading Appendix N. There is no Appendix N. There’s a thousand thousand books out there of that era. And this was an almost random sweep of just grabbing some titles that this particular fantasy reader happens to like. It’s not a sacred list. It’s not the creme de la creme. There’s some crap in there.

Runeslinger: It’s a particular flavor of crap.

Ron Edwards: There you go! And when he realized that… when Jeffro realized that his writing about these things changed.

Runeslinger: It did.

Ron Edwards: And he even said it flat out, I don’t think I can talk about fantasy with my most of my freinds anymore. If they don’t know this in this in this viceral fasion I don’t know what to tell them. I’m not even sure I want to know their opinions about anything! And it sounds so elitist in a lot of ways. But I do think there is this shift in perspective toward fantasy toward the experience of fantasy that it’s not bounded by genre conventions. That fantastic writing by definition can kick open any door it wants to. That when Jessica Amanda Simmonson wrote her fantasy, she was kicking open a variety of doors. When Moorcock wrote his, he was kicking down his. When Howard wrote his he was kicking open doors. They weren’t saying, “Fantasy is like x y z why I believe I shall write some.”

Let’s go kick open some doors!


5 responses to “Epic Ron Edwards Interview by Runeslinger

  1. Runeslinger July 6, 2015 at 8:38 am

    Misunderstood context, or as you say failure to grasp the nuances of an implied setting, is one of the main reasons which have led gamers of my acquaintance to react negatively or have unsatisfactory experiences.

    As a teen, I read quite a few of the authors in Appendix N, but was drawn to different elements than what D&D implied then. I experimented a lot trying to make the game and my interests compatible, but did not succeed. Fortunately, I had enough fun to stick with the hobby even though I stopped playing that game.

    • jeffro July 6, 2015 at 8:40 am

      I really don’t see how you could look at Appendix N and then see D&D in it. The things that got picked out of it and bolted onto the game concept… they’re just completely off the wall.

      • Runeslinger July 6, 2015 at 8:54 am

        There is that. I never felt Stormbringer in it, for example. Hawkmoon was easier, but creating such games made most of the printed material useless… As they no doubt noticed at TSR. At some point serving as inspiration would become counterproductive from a business standpoint.

        Even if you were among those who liked those random elements from N books, by the time the game had reached the growing numbers of players of the 80s, would those elements be what was desired by most groups? Even the older ones?

        It would be awesome to track the spread of the game and the reading habits of its players with the campaign worlds created.

    • jeffro July 6, 2015 at 9:26 am

      I wouldn’t have had a clue about the Appendix N list. It was never mentioned in magazines that I saw, I didn’t own a DMG, and the DM’s that I knew would have indicated that my reading the DMG was forbidden anyway! It was GURPS that had the impact on my reading, especially the Humanx stories and the Uplift series.

      These inspirations were very troublesome to TSR. Edgar Rice Burroughs’s estate sunk an entire game. Tolkien stuff had to be cleaned up. Moorcock and Lovecraft should have been fine, but there were hassles with Chaosium over Deities & Demigods. I don’t blame them for minimizing them more and more over time.

      • Runeslinger July 7, 2015 at 11:41 pm

        I never thought about it as “Appendix N” in the way we do now. I guess it was just “a list of books that Gygax liked” and we shared the ones we had around (or books by the same authors) along with other things we ourselves liked/disliked, and teased each other for copying things from them too liberally. Harsh critics we were. I will say that I think we went into some of the books we read intentionally from N, looking for stories like what the game helped us make, and were typically either quite disappointed, or more impressed with what the books allowed their protagonists to do than with what the game ‘allowed’ us to do.

        We did not have the “there can be only 1” approach to DMing. It was shared right from the beginning. That seemed to die out in the 90s as more and more games took on more and more elements of metaplot and mystery, and as we started playing in more and more games. In the beginning, though, we had shared game worlds, we had our own game worlds, and everybody in the group had campaigns to run and characters to play.

        I got my own DMG and PG for AD&D in 86, I think, from a used book store run by a gamer in his early 20s. He was fun to game with and he pointed us at a lot of books we “should read” (both for our benefit and for making his rent). All of my D&D/AD&D books were second-hand now that I think of it, except for my Monster Manual and the dreaded Unearthed Arcana.

        Thinking back on that time, it’s funny the only game books on his shelves were D&D. In my town, the only other game I knew people played for sure during our high school years was Marvel, but I didn’t see it or any other game ’til my first year of university. We had BECMI, we had our flavors of B/X, we had AD&D, and that’s pretty much that. The other books were mostly SF/F like the great DAW versions of Hawkmoon, the 70’s reprints of Doc Savage and The Shadow, the works of Niven, Asimov, and Derleth, and the obligatory occult/new age section. We did not speak of the Harlequin Romance section.

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