Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Appendix N is Essential to Understanding D&D

After playing AD&D almost constantly for three years, I was almost ready to back off on my claims about how integral Appendix N was to understanding the game. After all, the case could be made that game mechanisms such as Braunstein play, timekeeping rules, and 1:10 figure scaling are far more important to anyone looking to master the game.

Fortunately, some rather dimwitted people showed up to set me straight on the matter. Consider the following:

Yes, this is the same guy that has been very aggressive about arguing that D&D is nothing but a rip off from Tolkien’s oeuvre.

But notice the pattern. First, he denies that D&D is comprised of a heterogeneous synthesis of a great many sources besides Tolkien’s famous fantasy works. Next, he comes across a game element that very much contrary to how Tolkien would have approached either storytelling or worldbuilding. Baffled and enraged by the inherent strangeness of the game, he then goes on to conclude that Gygax is a fool– and that he is of course God’s gift to role-playing! (A not uncommon occurrence among role-players it seems!)

Of course, anyone familiar with Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories would immediately recognize that Gygax’s City/Town Encounter Matrix is not an attempt to model anything remotely like a stuffy sort of Minas Tirith city at all. Gary Gygax was not incompetent at presenting a Tolkienesque game setting. He had entirely different tastes and assumptions about fantasy! And anyone that desired a game session that felt more akin to Fritz Leiber’s City of Lankhmar would be more than satisfied with what the tables offered up to him– even if it was a cheap trollop with a 30% chance to know valuable information!

Obviously, the capacity to recognize which sources Gygax is drawing from and which types of fantasy he is simulating not only allows people to play the game as Gygax conceived it, it also saves them from drastically underestimating his intelligence. It pains me to say this as I had really hoped to have grown to be far more open minded on the subject than I was back in 2016 when I was putting the finishing touches on my treatise on the subject, but being familiar with the works in Appendix N really is a prerequisite to both understanding Gary Gygax and to playing the game he co-created correctly.


6 responses to “Appendix N is Essential to Understanding D&D

  1. Bret Bernhoft March 24, 2023 at 12:24 pm

    This is an interesting post. I didn’t know that Gygax was so well-sourced in his work. That is good information to have. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Hector Frankenthal March 24, 2023 at 4:26 pm

    What ScythianB meant by writing “I’ve got more rpg experience than Gygax did when he wrote OD&D” is that he has consumed more content than Gygax did when the latter wrote OD&D. Not a remarkable accomplishment.

  3. Nagora March 25, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    Obvious troll is obvious. I literally have never sat down at a table with people who wanted to play a LotR rpg. Even with MERP!

    The false premise is simply that CHAINMAIL – with, yes, lots of Tolkien references even by name – is the first edition of OD&D. It ain’t. The artwork alone in OD&D tells you that.

    • jeffro March 25, 2023 at 5:30 pm

      Bro, that is a killer rejoinder. MERP. MERP! Bahahaha yes!

      • Nagora March 26, 2023 at 4:51 am

        There’s a whole thing there with how the fact that LotR’s story is told, finished, and published squashes the ability to role play in the setting compared to the open-ended nature of story collections like REH’s work.

        And that is connected to why we saw orcs and so forth in Greyhawk where they’re divorced from that “but we know how this ends” feeling that made any thought of LotR seem pointless. People *did* like ents and orcs and wrights etc. but ironically Middle Earth isn’t a good setting to use them in.

  4. Pingback: Sensor Sweep: Conan, Elric, Pulp, D&D, James Bond –

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