Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Appendix N, Frank Mentzer, and Phantom Jeffro

Pretty good show here from the Wandering DMs that demonstrates that Appendix N is still the talk of the town:

I feared the worst for this one when I turned it on today. This bit “Our Appendix N” typically means “here is my list of crappy video games, blockbuster movies, Japanese cartoons, and bloated post-1980 pink slime fantasy series that most influence the derivative rpg products I make which nobody plays.”

But no! Delta Dan and his co-host pretty well go down the line with everything that I would want said on this topic:

  • Short stories from before 1970 are a better match for what most people tend to do in D&D sessions than the big epic fantasy series that are today synonymous with the genre
  • Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories are more in line with the D&D rules than practically anything else in existence.
  • If you’re going to play real D&D, it is going to help a great deal if “your” Appendix N includes Howard’s Conan stories, Michael Moorcock’s Elric stories, and Jack Vance’s Cugel stories.
  • Delta gives a suggestion that if you are playing G1, be sure to read “The Roaring Trumpet” by de Camp and Pratt.

For that last one, I don’t know who the first person in the game blog scene to call that out. Whoever it was is definitely a very perspicacious individual that deserves our gratitude!

Now, I bring up this show not so much because these guys are able to speak at length on this particular topic without ever mentioning my name. But I will say there is a very good gloss on 2016 Jeffro baked into this show. A set of claims that brought an endless stream of gross nerds out of the woodwork to challenge me back in the day is clearly now just the way most people in gaming understand this topic.

What’s really interesting is where they drop the ball. Now… as one of the players in the Trollopulous game has said, the only person that can defeat Jeffro on an rpg topic is FUTURE JEFFRO. This is a jibe at my very famous switch from endorsing Moldvay Basic to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, the reasons for which I have elaborated at length on this blog and on Twitter.

But notice how these Wandering DM guys claim that The Lord of the Rings is not really the best fit for D&D. And notice how both they and 2015 Jeffro would say that there are easily five or six other authors that are more influential to the nature of the game than even J. R. R. Tolkien.

What’s missing from this take is something that was uncovered by 2021 Jeffro. And that is– of course!– you cannot run a fantasy campaign that works the way that The Lord of the Rings does if you have not mastered both 1:1 timekeeping and the integration of Chainmail battles into regular D&D play. And note that this topic has consumed the #BrOSR’s efforts since my January 2021 Chainmail scale adventure session, Chanticleer’s pioneering of patron play, and then my massive month-long Braunstein in July 2021. All of this has culminated now into a FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT WAY TO PLAY D&D that is best detailed on many of Jon Mollison’s recent videos on the topic.

Now, the Greek Chorus of gross nerds that relentlessly heckles me as I attempt to share the good news of great gaming? They are always on my heels saying that not even Gygax himself played the way that we do. This is of course preposterous, inconsistent with everything in the rules. Nevertheless, these guys desperately beg anyone that knew Gygax personally to please please please tell them that not even Gygax played Real D&D™.

Which is where this Frank Mentzer quote comes from.

Check it out. Frank Mentzer says here that Gygax kept his characters in some kind of “training jail”. Man… I wonder how Gygax knew how long he should keep Frank’s characters out of play? If only there were a rule in the DMG which nobody has explained over the past 40 years which gives the referee a consistent, clear duration for working that out!

The answer is of course… 1:1 time correspondence between sessions.

And while we are on the topic: who else besides the #BrOSR has endorsed the concept of Training Jail over the past forty years. I can’t think of any!

And who else has put the word out that Training Jail… somehow… someway… incredibly even… is the key to unlocking the D&D game as Gygax played it and as Gygax intended YOU to play it? Well, hey, that is my bag. Though it would not be the sensation that it is right now were it not for the dozen or so gaming geniuses that all embraced and continued to explore these ideas after playing in my Trollopulous campaign.

Which, finally, brings us back to this Wandering DMs show.

The most interesting thing about it is what is not said. And that is that there is a big big story here, as big or bigger than that of Appendix N itself. And the amazing thing about it is that Delta doesn’t make any offhand comments on this point even though he has himself worked up a pretty solid and well-tested set of Chainmail rules!

But don’t worry! He’ll get there eventually.

And whoever he credits for this stunning discovery, you can rest assured that Phantom Jeffro will be there quietly guiding his talking points on whatever show he does for this.


4 responses to “Appendix N, Frank Mentzer, and Phantom Jeffro

  1. Nagora April 6, 2022 at 4:43 pm

    Never ceases to amaze me that otherwise intelligent people bother to ever look at Twitter or read the twits therein.

  2. Nagora April 7, 2022 at 4:34 am

    Aside from anything else Frank hasn’t understood what 1:1 time means in this context. He should read the DMG sometime.

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