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Category Archives: Appendix N

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!

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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!

Who Created the Pulp Revolution?

Declan Finn claimed today that I “more or less created the Pulp Revolution with Appendix N.” And I tell you, my first impulse was to argue back a little. Of course, I didn’t chew Alex Kimball out when he called Appendix N the book that launched a movement. And yeah… when I was trying to get the introduction to the thing just right, I did go and have twelve people attempt to explain why it was that the book had done what it did.

But there are many significant actors involved here, all of whom worked together to make the Pulp Revolution happen:

  • There is Larry Correia, who not only ignored what his writing teachers told him… but who also pulled off one of the greatest pranks in science fiction history. He got a lot of people talking about something that wasn’t immediately obvious.
  • There is Edgar Rice Burroughs, who single-handedly set the tone for fantasy, science fiction, pulp, comic books, role-playing games, and Star Wars.
  • There is Gary Gygax, who created a time capsule that preserved that vision in the face of an industry and gatekeeping establishment that was hellbent on seeing it extinguished.
  • There are game bloggers like Ron Edwards, James Maliszewski, and Jeff Rients who brought this to the attention of fans of role-playing games.
  • There is John C. Wright, who never got the memo that Appendix N style fantasy was out of style.
  • There is Alex Kimball, who offered to pay semi-pro rates for people that wanted to bring back more of it to the short fiction scene.
  • There is Daddy Warpig, who observed that something was happening and called it what it was before anyone could grasp its significance.
  • There is Dan Wolfgang and QuQu, who reported on what was happening with first class coverage.

That’s quite a list!

But I tell you. As crazy and strange and hilarious as the story of how the Pulp Revolution came to be is, I’m happy to say that it pales in comparison to the works that are coming out under its banner. Novels like Jon Mollison’s Sudden Rescue. John C. Wright’s Swan Knight’s Son. And Ben Wheeler’s In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars. And while commentators like me have had a field day the past few years here, I have to say… at the end of the day it’s the authors that really create the Pulp Revolution. And I’m really glad that they do.

So many people had just walked away from science fiction and fantasy over the past few decades. So many people had thought that no one would write stories like Robert E. Howard and Fritz Leiber did again. Even five years ago that was unimaginable. And now… against all odds, against all hope… there’s something for those people to come back to.

It’s awesome. It really is.

So kick back. Pop some popcorn. Queue up that audio book. Fire up the Kindle. And crack open that case bound omnibus. This party is just getting started!

The OSR’s Fourth Wave: Cirsova, Dungeon Grappling, and Appendix N!

Venger Satanis recently suggested that the OSR has a fourth wave and sketched out what he thought set it apart from the earlier phases within the scene:

4th wave OSR incorporates the spirit, tone, objectives, aesthetics, play-style, rules philosophy, mechanical principles, and hobbyist attitude from the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s into RPG material that does it’s own thing.  Many consider these products neo-OSR, OSRish, OSR adjacent, or quasi-OSR because they’ve taken the next logical, evolutionary step away from original D&D, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, Gamma World, Ghostbusters, Toon, Vampire: the Masquerade, etc.

I think he’s right that this did in fact happen.

Dungeon Grappling is of course a fusion of the best ideas of the old school D&D scene mixed together with one of the most innovative designers to come out of the GURPS side of the hobby. Cirsova takes the “git it done”, “do it yourself” approach to ‘zines that fueled magazines like Fight On! and applies it to an effort to create a science fiction and fantasy magazine that is more in line with the sort of thing that inspired fantasy role-playing in the first place. My own Appendix N takes the sort of gaming commentary that typified the second wave of the OSR (and which was subsequently repudiated by third wavers), gives it a first class treatment, and then takes outside of the OSR scene and into an entirely new audience.

That’s just the stuff that I have on hand here, but there is of course more on the way. The Mixed GM’s Demons In Space fuses a popular video game franchise with a reskin of a very familiar game. And Autarch’s Heroic Fantasy & Barbarian Conquerors supplements promise to take some of the discoveries of the pulp revival and consciously apply them to one of the best retroclones on the market. (Adventure Conqueror King System, natch!)

The OSR didn’t simply declare victory and call it day when 5th edition back away from some of the more mind-splitting elements of 4th edition. A new wave of designers came along that took what the OSR had proven to work, returned to the roots of the hobby, and then went forward with their own way of doing things.

And it’s just getting started!