TSR Appendix N Discussion

overgeeked

B/X Known World
So, spinning off from the Not-TSR thread, I thought I'd try starting a separate thread for specifically discussing Appendix N's influences on the game.

@Mannahnin said that "the game itself is definitely not a particularly good Tolkien emulator." Very true, but I would go further in that it's not really great at directly emulating any single Appendix N work. It's hard to picture Conan, for example, striding into a dungeon and getting dissolved by green slime - the indomitable Cimmerian is, I would posit, far more easily brought to life in 5e with its nigh-superheroic characters.*

And that's okay - what makes D&D so great is that it is not any one single thing, but a stew of influences. Tolkien, REH, Anderson, Leiber, Vance, et al. It's all of them and none of them.

*This is also something I think about a lot with DCC RPG. It frequently emulates the high lethality of early D&D, but if you look at Appendix N, characters frequently survive against all odds, again and again.
This is a regular point of tension in the community. How well do RPGs emulate stories? How well can they emulate stories? How much of a game is really left the closer you get to emulating stories? And how many people would actually want to play the resulting game?

A lot of gamers actively avoid anything and everything that would make for a good story and complain loudly and frequently when the referee (or players) do things that would push story over random game elements, optimization, "winning," and various other gamer habits. There are several active threads by both players and referees complaining about the people on the other side of the screen doing things that make perfect sense if the game emulated stories, but are antithetical to gaming.

DCC RPG brings in a lot more of the Appendix N vibe and elements than early D&D did, but it's also terrible at emulating story. Random die rolls can kill any character at any time. Anti-climactic results abound. Magic is chaotic. A good crit can kill anyone. To me, DCC RPG is a terrible Appendix N emulator if you use the main characters of Appendix N stories as your baseline. It's not possible to play as Conan in the DCC RPG. Nor is it possible to play Frodo or Sam or Gandalf. Nor Elric. Nor Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser. But, it is possible to play characters within nearly identical worlds as those characters.
 

log in or register to remove this ad


CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Oh, true. His later books definitely moved away from Tolkien. Of course, the fact that it was Sword of Shannara that made him a name in the genre didn't hurt at all.

I mean, Dragonlance as a ripoff of Tolkien? Really? Sure, it contained some of the same DNA because it was baselined in D&D. But, other than a few bits and bobs here, it would be pretty hard to draw any real correlations between LotR and Dragonlance. OTOH, Sword of Shannara is virtually word for word a copy of Tolkien. And it's not like this was subtle at all.

Funny thing is, I really like Terry Brooks. His Magic Kingdom series was a blast. He definitely has the chops.
Sure, but Wagner's The Ring Cycle has them all together almost exactly like the plot to Hobbit. A non-human unstable figure kills his brother for a cursed ring of power? Might as well call him Hagen instead of Gollum...

Anyway, for someone to say Brooks copied Tolkien while ignoring how the Hobbit is closer to The Ring seems a bit odd to me. It's like people want to hate on Brooks for some weird reason while ignoring how not only did Tolkien do it as well, he did it more blatantly than Brooks did.

Now, I'm not blaming Tolkien. I mean, he was right up front how he wanted to create a fantasy epic for white people because he loved how other cultures had great stories, so he admitted he pulled everything from European folklore and mythology. I just think it's disingenuous to knock Brooks down and say Brooks just copied Tolkien when a) Tolkien did the same, and b) Brooks was told to do that by his publisher.
The only thing I can contribute to that discussion is that I've met Terry Brooks (he lives nearby), and found him to be an excellent human being. He's patient with his fans, he's very supportive of derivative works, and apart from the occasional bit of shade he throws at George R. R. Martin's publishing schedule, he never has anything bad to say about other fantasy authors.

He's not flawless, and neither are his books, but if you're hunting for inspiration in your D&D game you can do much worse than Terry Brooks.
 
Last edited:


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
There is a bit more to it than that. Look at the default player facing options. The races are a 1 for 1, exact copy of Tolkien's. The classes are also heavily influenced by Tolkien as well. Ranger, Fighter, Thief, Paladin, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Magic User, Illusionist, Assassin, and Monk. Really only Cleric and Monk aren't a great fit for Tolkien's world, but even they could be shoehorned in with out much effort.

There is lots of other influences in D&D, but a lot of it is in Monsters and world building that are not immediately visible. Just looking at character creation, the first part of the game that most players experience, the game really does look like Tolkien.

With Tolkien being default fantasy at the time, it probably wasn't a bad idea. It was what most players were looking for from a fantasy game at the time.

No, that's not correct.

Let's use your example and go to the classes. They are absolutely NOT Tolkien-influenced (with one major exception, of course).

Where did the classes come from? Funny you should ask me of all people!

-Assassin. Not Tolkien. Arneson's group (Hammock) by way of Kask, but based on the historical model.
-Bard. Not Tolkien. Doug Schwegman mixed together histrocial references fors a skald, a bard, and a minstrel.
-Cleric. Not Tolkien. This was Bishop Carr (guess who?) designed from Hammer Horror films to defeat Sir Fang, as modified by Gygax's conception of Bishop Odo.
-Druid. Not Tolkien. This one is Dennis "Chariot of" Sustare, and swirling the 70s ideas about Druids that came from the Romans.
-Illusionist. Not Tolkien. Peter Aronson really loved the illusions Magic Users could cast and wanted to create a whole class based on it.
-Monk. Not Tolkien. This is Remo Williams, as Brian Blume wanted.
-Paladin. Not Tolkien. This was Poul Anderson.
-Thief. Not Tolkien. The players at Aero Games wanted a "Box Man" and created one, which was then appropriated by Gygax who added a little Vance and Zelazny.
-Figher (fighting man)/Magic User. Not Tolkien. Based on generic archetypes.

That leaves one - the Ranger, which wasn't Gygax, but was Joe Fischer, who read the Paladin and thought- "I want that, but Aragorn."


This is the issue I pointed out- if you don't know not only the D&D history, but also the antecedent fantasy history, it all looks like Tolkien.

It isn't. Races? Sure. The rest? Not so much.
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Whenever Appendix N comes up, I think about the six author list in the middle of this post...
... by this thread's OP.

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
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Whenever Appendix N comes up, I think about the six author list in the middle of this post...
... by this thread's OP.

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

Any list that leaves out Zelazny is doping a disservice. At a minimum, I would recommend the Amber Series and Jack of Shadows.

(I would also recommend Lord of Light to get a feel for the magi-tech that was so prominent and resulted in, inter alia, a lot of the sci fi / fantasy that we saw in the 70s).
 

Cadence

Legend
Supporter
Any list that leaves out Zelazny is doping a disservice. At a minimum, I would recommend the Amber Series and Jack of Shadows.

(I would also recommend Lord of Light to get a feel for the magi-tech that was so prominent and resulted in, inter alia, a lot of the sci fi / fantasy that we saw in the 70s).

The OP of that other thread (@Doug McCrae ) did have Zelazny in their Shorter Appendix N that they lead off that thread with:

Anderson, Poul: Three Hearts and Three Lions
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: A Princess of Mars; The Gods of Mars; The Warlord of Mars
de Camp, L Sprague and Pratt, Fletcher: The Roaring Trumpet; The Mathematics of Magic; The Castle of Iron
Howard, Robert E: Conan stories
Leiber, Fritz: Swords and Deviltry; Swords Against Death; Swords in the Mist; Swords Against Wizardry; The Swords of Lankhmar
Lovecraft, HP
Merritt, Abraham: The Moon Pool; Dwellers in the Mirage; Creep, Shadow!
Moorcock, Michael: The Stealer of Souls; Stormbringer
Tolkien, JRR: The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings
Vance, Jack: The Dying Earth; The Eyes of the Overworld
Zelazny, Roger: Jack of Shadows; Nine Princes in Amber; The Guns of Avalon


(from https://www.enworld.org/threads/a-shorter-appendix-n.674084/ )
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
If I were going to write my own Appendix N, to include only the authors/sources that have contributed meaningfully to my current D&D campaign, it would be as follows:

Andrews, Shirley. "Atlantis: Insights from a Lost Civilization."
Brooks, Terry. "The Heritage of Shannara" (Trilogy)
Dumas, Alexandre. "The Three Musketeers"
Ellsworth, Shawn. "The Seas of Vodari"
Haggard, H. Rider. "King Solomon's Mines"
Hope, Anthony. "The Prisoner of Zenda"
Square Enix Co., Ltd. "Final Fantasy" (Game franchise)
Stevenson, Robert Lewis. "Treasure Island"
Verne, Jules. "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"
Westerfield, Scott. "Leviathan"
Wizards of the Coast, "Unearthed Arcana - Ixalan"

And if I were going to write my own Appendix N to include all of the authors and sources that have contributed meaningfully to all of my D&D campaigns I've run over the years, it would have tens of thousands of entries.
 
Last edited:

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
The OP of that other thread (@Doug McCrae ) did have Zelazny in their Shorter Appendix N that they lead off that thread with:

Weirdly, thought from that list if you had to narrow it down to six, I'd probably take off Poul Anderson.

I know, Three Hearts and Three Lions has some major BDE when it comes to D&D. But ... eh.

(That said, if you take Gygax at his word, which is always a tricky proposition, de Camp & Pratt and Merritt are the ones to look to for immediate D&D influence, in addition to REH, Leiber, Vance, and Lovecraft)
 

An Advertisement

Advertisement4

Top