D&D General A shorter Appendix N

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Which is weird, now that i think about it, considering how common crossworld fantasy is. Are there any explicitly crossworld settings for D&D (any edition), official or 3rd party?
No official ones, that I can think of, although some of Gary's old Greyhawk modules and scenarios specifically involved cross-world travel. Apparently D&D adventurers visiting our Earth wasn't super rare. Dragon Magazine #100 had The City Beyond the Gate, which sends the PCs to modern London, England.

But I can't think of any adventures or settings in which the PCs are Earth people visiting a fantasy world. Despite indications that Dave Arneson's Blackmoor game may have actually started that way.
 

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Jer

Legend
Supporter
Which is weird, now that i think about it, considering how common crossworld fantasy is. Are there any explicitly crossworld settings for D&D (any edition), official or 3rd party?
I mean, there's "The Realm" - the world from the D&D cartoon show from the 80s. No published campaign setting but it fits. (Also - where's my Realm campaign setting? Beyond the little booklet for 3e that was published with the DVDs in the early 00's that is.)

Also depending on what you mean by "crossworld" there's also Blackmoor - the lore of the setting including a crashed space ship from some federation of worlds that is legally distinct from Star Trek and a crew that was divided into factions over how to deal with the natives. (Narratives that got included into Mystara due to the BECMI Blackmoor modules that were published). (Also Barrier Peaks, though there were no survivors to do the crossworld bits).

Honestly though I've thought about doing a crossworld sort of setting like that and it's too meta. You're already playing D&D where you're a modern person thrust into a fantasy world. A modern person playing a modern person thrust into a fantasy world just feels like one layer too far - if I'm going to do that I'm probably going to go for some kind of urban fantasy and play Changeling or Urban Arcana instead.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Right. The idea of a protagonist or multiple protagonists from our world people being thrust into a fantasy world and has been common for over a century. At least since Burrough's Mars books. It's a premise which allows easy reader identification with the hero, and creates a handy reason for the protagonist to need to learn about the world and have it explained to them as the reader does.

But I think you're right that playing a GAME in which we, modern humans from Earth, play OTHER modern humans from Earth thrust into the fantasy world, would be perhaps a bit too meta. There's also the issue of most modern people fundamentally lacking adventuring skills! :D Would we all tend to be the same class, Commoner, because very few of us are trained with swords and armor, and none of us trained in magic?

Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flame series dealt with this by having the protagonists be college student players of D&D-with-the-serial-numbers-filed-off, transported into the bodies of their PCs in the game world, and sharing minds with them/able to call on their skills. At least to some extent; the Cleric, for example, found herself unable to pray for and prepare new spells (though she could cast the ones she had prepared, Vancian-style) because she didn't personally BELIEVE in her character's deity.

Although, reflecting on it, the Earth person sent to fantasy world premise HAS also dropped off in popularity a lot since Tolkien reshaped the fantasy genre, which mostly happens to overlap with the time period since tabletop RPGs started being published.
 
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Though it's not my favorite Appendix N read, or Poul Anderson book (hello The Broken Sword!), it's still quite good, and probably has more elements that would inspire D&D per page count than any other single book on the list.

If I was going to narrow Appendix N down to a single book, Three Hearts and Three Lions would be it.

I think the most "D&D" book in the whole Appendix N is Three Hearts and Three Lions. It just oozes adventure.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Right. The idea of a protagonist or multiple protagonists from our world people being thrust into a fantasy world and has been common for over a century. At least since Burrough's Mars books. It's a premise which allows easy reader identification with the hero, and creates a handy reason for the protagonist to need to learn about the world and have it explained to them as the reader does.
Oz pre-dates Barsoom by a bit more than a decade, Wonderland by an additional 40+ years :) Children's fantasy, but influential - Jack Vance has credited Oz as one of his inspirations for Cugel's journeys.

(I also think that Oz and Wonderland - along with Narnia - provide a reason for why it isn't as popular - it's often seen as a "children's" genre trope rather than one that is used for serious adult fantasy. Though there are a lot of examples written for adults.)


Although, reflecting on it, the Earth person sent to fantasy world premise HAS also dropped off in popularity a lot since Tolkien reshaped the fantasy genre, which mostly happens to overlap with the time period since tabletop RPGs started being published.
I think part of it too is that there's less of an assumption that the reader identification character needs to be someone modern for a modern reader to be able to buy into the story. Also there's the old sci-fi idea that you can only have your readers buy into one crazy idea per story, but once something moves from "crazy idea" to "trope" you can add another crazy idea and they don't rebel. If they're already fine with faster than light starships as a common trope, they won't balk at supercomputers that have human intelligence too. I think there's something similar going on with fantasy - where you once needed to explain the idea of another world (and having your protagonist travel there does that) you don't need to do that anymore once the readers accept the idea that fantasy worlds can exist in your fiction.
 

Mannahnin

Scion of Murgen (He/Him)
Oz pre-dates Barsoom by a bit more than a decade, Wonderland by an additional 40+ years :) Children's fantasy, but influential - Jack Vance has credited Oz as one of his inspirations for Cugel's journeys.

(I also think that Oz and Wonderland - along with Narnia - provide a reason for why it isn't as popular - it's often seen as a "children's" genre trope rather than one that is used for serious adult fantasy. Though there are a lot of examples written for adults.)



I think part of it too is that there's less of an assumption that the reader identification character needs to be someone modern for a modern reader to be able to buy into the story. Also there's the old sci-fi idea that you can only have your readers buy into one crazy idea per story, but once something moves from "crazy idea" to "trope" you can add another crazy idea and they don't rebel. If they're already fine with faster than light starships as a common trope, they won't balk at supercomputers that have human intelligence too. I think there's something similar going on with fantasy - where you once needed to explain the idea of another world (and having your protagonist travel there does that) you don't need to do that anymore once the readers accept the idea that fantasy worlds can exist in your fiction.
Excellent points.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
If we're talking getting Appendix N down to as few listing as possible, really, I think it could be left at:

Anderson, Poul: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS;
Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series
Leiber, Fritz: "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series; et al
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS;
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
Vance, Jack: THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al

Finished these back a while, but now I'm finally getting on to the others in the slightly-longer list in the original post. Just ordered the Burroughs and Merritt books!

I'd read the Conan, Tolkien, and Vance stuff before and am a fan of all three.

Of the others I was most surprised at how bad writing wise the early Moorcock stuff was and how bad creepy wise the post Swords of Lankhmar Leiber stuff was. Anderson's struck me as... not exciting?

On the longer, shorter list I've also read de Camp & Pratt and Lovecraft before, and they were okish. The Shea books were certainly a more fun read with some ideas here and there, but I don't think they fare well in comparison to a lot of more recent works.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Anderson, Poul: THREE HEARTS AND THREE LIONS;
Howard, R. E.: "Conan" series
Leiber, Fritz: "Fafhrd & Gray Mouser" series; et al
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS;
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; "Ring trilogy"
Vance, Jack: THE EYES OF THE OVERWORLD; THE DYING EARTH; et al

For continuing influence, do Anderson and Moorcock slide down quite a bit if alignment is side-lined (like in 5e, or even moreso)?
 

Two things with Moorcock - one, he was in his early 20s when he created Elric, and frequently he wrote entire books in a single frenzied weekend. I find that imparts a certain energy to them, but I get that it also creates some rough spots for some.

Though I think Three Hearts and Three Lions is the more influential book, I'd recommend The Broken Sword ahead of it any day.

Of the others I was most surprised at how bad writing wise the early Moorcock stuff was and how bad creepy wise the post Swords of Lankhmar Leiber stuff was. Anderson's struck me as... not exciting?

Anderson, yeah, but Moorcock also gives us a ton of extraplanar weirdness.

For continuing influence, do Anderson and Moorcock slide down quite a bit if alignment is side-lined (like in 5e, or even moreso)?
 

delericho

Legend
But I think you're right that playing a GAME in which we, modern humans from Earth, play OTHER modern humans from Earth thrust into the fantasy world, would be perhaps a bit too meta. There's also the issue of most modern people fundamentally lacking adventuring skills! :D Would we all tend to be the same class, Commoner, because very few of us are trained with swords and armor, and none of us trained in magic?
I'd be inclined to go one of three ways with that:
  • The cleanest is probably to arrange a montage scene almost immediately after arrival, taking those modern humans and turning them into 1st level adventurers.
  • Alternately, arrange some sort of special handwave - they turn out to be the reincarnated souls of legendary heroes, or they bond with natives, or they're mutated in the stargate, or something like that.
  • That said, quite often I've just taken the view that you become a 1st level character the moment you choose adventure, regardless of previous skills. (So, for instance, Samwise is a commoner until his "if I take one more step" moment - as soon as he takes that step he's a 1st level... something.) That's nonsense, of course, but it's not the most nonsensical thing in my typical games. :)
 

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