D&D General What is your personal Appendix N?

Hickman & Weiss's Deathgate Cycle - While the ending of this 7-books series felt perfunctory and rushed, I loved the first five books when I read them (some twice as I awaited later ones to be released) and the way each of the four worlds is described were based on a classical element and found a new way to organize the classic fantasy peoples of dwarves and elves, etc. was an eye-opener to me. To this day, the faultless bird (for sending messages) described in one of those books, still appear in my games.
That was the name of the Series! I started on book 3, Fire Sea, and I was amazed and had to get all the books and reread them in order. Then wait for the last 3 books to come out. Sadly, I agree, the last 3 books were rushed. It would have been better as an 8 book series.
 

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Lanefan

Victoria Rules
Just the basics:

Literature:
Tolkein - LotR and Hobbit
Weis-Hickman - Rose of the Prophet trilogy
Feist-Wurts - Daughter-Servant-Mistress of the Empire trilogy
Eddings - Belgariad (both series) and associated works
Lynch - Gentlemen Bastards series (Locke Lamora etc.)
Rohan - Winter of the World trilogy
various - numerous RPG systems and editions of D&D that I don't run or play

Movies and TV:
Game of Thrones
LotR and Hobbit movies
Xena/Hercules
Pirates of the Caribbean

Other:
Advent, Zork, and similar text-based computer games
Rogue and other rogue-like computer games
Lordi (a Finnish metal band)
various - many assorted artworks found online during quasi-random searches
various - my past and present players and DMs.
 

Quickleaf

Legend
The Lord of the Rings - I know a lot of people have listed these, but the novels and especially the appendices (the movies are good too, but get a little too cartoony action hero-y for my tastes in places) in terms of world-building and the importance of history on the present moment - and of course the view of elves and dwarves. The picaresque approach to travel and meeting people is a big part of my games as well. I love describing the landscape and weather and I could listen to the Robert Ingliss read those passages over and over in the best audio book version of the series (and sometimes do).

The Earthsea Cycle - LeGuin is one of my all-time favorite writers and the original Earthsea trilogy was a huge influence in the creation of my long-time homebrew, Aquerra. Heck, that homebrew even has an Academy of Wizardry! It was the only fantasy book I knew of as a teen that had black and brown people are the main protagonists and the white people were the "weirdo foreigners." However, the last two books she wrote, digging into the toxic male-dominated view of magic in the world of the first three books and challenging the assumptions of traditional fantasy were a big influence on my 5E-era running of games.

Zelazny's Chronicles of Amber - While not particularly D&Dish, the role of familial relations, the yin-yang take on law vs. chaos, the fluid description of moving between worlds (called "shadows") and magical tarot cards used for communication and travel have all made appearances or had an influence on my D&D games.

Hickman & Weiss's Deathgate Cycle - While the ending of this 7-books series felt perfunctory and rushed, I loved the first five books when I read them (some twice as I awaited later ones to be released) and the way each of the four worlds is described were based on a classical element and found a new way to organize the classic fantasy peoples of dwarves and elves, etc. was an eye-opener to me. To this day, the faultless bird (for sending messages) described in one of those books, still appear in my games.

Ed Greenwood's original Forgotten Realms-based articles for Dragon Magazine - This is kind of cheating, but long before the Realms was an official D&D setting, Greenwood was using it as the basis for "generic" stuff to include in your own D&D campaigns. Back then the sense of mystery along with lots of detail was hugely influential on my own worldbuilding. I know it is hard to think of the Realms as "mysterious" nowadays given how many supplements, adventures, and novels have been set there, but back then, it was the sense of a small piece of a much larger and unknowable whole was influential as heck.

Moorcock's Eternal Champion books (Elric, et al. . .) I could not stop reading these once I got my hands of these. I can't say anything specific influenced me (though I took the Red God of the East from the Hawkmoon books and made it the Red God of the West in Aquerra) but the overall feeling of tragedy even when succeeding definitely pervades my games. Much like the "Scouring the Shire" in LotR, no heroic undertaking is free of loss and change for the so-called heroes.

The Chronicles of Narnia - Talking animals? Multiple worlds? The direct involvement of gods or their servants? Yes, yes, and yes. Some people talk about the allegory like it is some kind of secret crime against children, but I never let an allegory get in the way of my enjoying a story and world. As a kid, I only ever (barely) saw it in the first book and didn't care and as an adult I found his attempt fascinating. Anyway, until my current campaigns, gods and religion have always been a big part of my games, and to the degree it is not in my current setting, I miss it and felt like I made a mistake not making it more proscriptive. I could probably add Dune to this list for similar reasons expressed in a completely different way.

Claremont Era X-Men Comics - Serialized drama? Complex relationships with villains? Distrust of corrupt authority? Powerful women? Yes, please!

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - the book that put the (contentious) term "magical realism" on the map, and the first book I immediately began to read again as soon as I finished it the first time, and the book that drove me to graduate studies in literature (despite not ending up focusing on Latin American lit too much). The generational sense of time and the loose relationship with history built from the re-told events of those generations passed down still has a influence on my running games. Once upon a time, I was a stubborn and steadfast worldbuilder that felt like he needed everything pinned down, but this book helped me to realize that history is malleable and built from stories and what matters is how we interact with it in the present based on our view of the past, not a sense of canonical reality (which never really exists anyway). This game me a looser hold on my homebrewing and the willingness to not only accept contradiction, but to see it as a necessary element in making a world feel immersive.

There is a ton of non-fiction that also influenced me, books on Greek/Roman and Norse and other global mythology esp. but also history books.
Really fantastic list!

I'll echo what you've said and @Ruin Explorer and @Reynard – the Earthsea series was hugely influential on me as a GM.

I definitely was also influenced by Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlein as well, in terms of speculative fiction, but I couldn't point to a single book of their as being the most impactful.

Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon was another big influence.

Probably Terry Brooks' Shannara series was influential in terms of taking many LotR tropes and thrusting them into more action-type scenes that translated easier to ttrpgs.

Oh, and a funny one: I loved Brian Jacques' childrens books about Redwall – all my food descriptions in D&D leveled up like 10 levels thanks to his influence!
 



GuyBoy

Hero
In terms of books, Tolkien and Howard were certainly the most important influences, though I’d also nod towards Narnia and Dunsany’s King of Elfland’s daughter.
I was also interested in various myths and legends, so that inspired too.
A love of history helped too; and I’m lucky enough to live in an area replete with ruined castles, Iron Age sites and even Neolithic remains.
Slightly more tenuously, my rugby playing gave me a sense of team, with people playing distinctly different roles in order to achieve success, so I “got” the adventuring party concept pretty easily.
 

Reynard

Legend
Supporter
The Last Unicorn (the animnated film as child and the novel as an adult) is hugely important to me as a writer of fantasy, but like Earthsea doesn't really have much influence over my conception of D&D. Is it weird that I compartmentalize between those thing so distinctly?
 

Lordi (a Finnish metal band)
My wife and I once met two of Lordi when I was on the way to run D&D!

Not that long* after their Eurovision win, they were playing a venue near Highbury & Islington Station, we were walking past the venue (The Garage I think it is rather generically called) and I had my Chessex mat under one arm, and there were these two big tall guys standing outside the back entrance, and somehow we got to talking to them, I think I knew Lordi were playing in the area that night. All I remember, sadly is that they were extremely nice, and I think partially thanks to platform boots, very tall! (I'm 6'2" and my wife is 6' and the were significantly taller!). One of them was the lead singer ("Mr Lordi", I see, looking it up!), but I don't recall the other one though him being really tall might narrow it down.

Interesting to hear they have enough lore/style to influence D&D!

* = It could have been several years to be honest lol
 
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The Last Unicorn (the animnated film as child and the novel as an adult) is hugely important to me as a writer of fantasy, but like Earthsea doesn't really have much influence over my conception of D&D. Is it weird that I compartmentalize between those thing so distinctly?
Not at all weird. There's loads of fantasy I read that had zero input on how I ran D&D, even I thought it was cool, because for me it just didn't mesh with D&D. I mean, like Warhammer Fantasy for example - despite getting into it at around the same time as D&D, I never made D&D more like that or really transported ideas from it - if anything I might have taken a couple of ideas from Warhammer 40K into D&D, but not Fantasy.

Oh even better example and relevant here - Fighting Fantasy the choose-your-own-adventure books, Advanced Fighting Fantasy the RPG, and Lone Wolf the choose-your-own-adventure books. I read some Fighting Fantasy - including the Riddling Reaver, which is a quasi-RPG, before D&D, but it had very little impact on how I saw D&D and I don't think anything really carried over from it. Later, after playing D&D, I got the Advanced Fighting Fantasy RPG and add-on books, and the monster book from that - Out of the Pit - absolutely influenced some monsters I put in D&D, because it was a lot more vivid than the original ring-binder Monstrous Compendium tended to be. And Lone Wolf, absolutely significantly influenced how I saw and ran D&D, and even how I played D&D, and what characters I played - it also made me positively pre-disposed towards psionics, because the titular Lone Wolf can use Kai/Magna-Kai powers, which are psionic-style (there's also a separate magic system). A lot of early campaign and bad guy ideas I had came out of Lone Wolf, and fortress designs and so on were inspired by it too. But not Fighting Fantasy.
 

gorice

Hero
This is a really hard list to write. Based purely on what I'm thinking of at this moment:

  1. I second (or third) the Earthsea books. Especially the second one. The later books (I'm halfway through the 5th) are criminally underrated, and give you a magnificent, naturalistic, morally- and politically-charged approach to fantasy that is somehow still whimsical, and exactly what I want from RPGs.
  2. Fighting fantasy books were literally the first books I ever read of my own accord. I'd completely forgotten about them until they came up in this thread. There was something about a dungeon with skeletons in it. I died a lot. Sold me on dungeons with skeletons for life.
  3. Lord of the Rings is kind of an anti-influence. Fellowship was the second book I ever read, but the movies had an aesthetic and cultural impact that was simply wrong and kind of soured me on the whole thing. I'll mention the Hobbit instead. Dragons, spiders, trolls, spooky forests, annoying elves, and treasure!
  4. Morrowind. This one is heavily derivative of a bunch of other stuff I also like, like Dune, Dark Sun, and Heavy Metal comics. The thing with Morrowind is that it's weird and full of cool freaky stuff, but it also makes sense as a world. You feel like real people with real lives can and do actually live there. It's that combination of high weirdness and ground-level politics and history that makes fantasy really sing for me.
  5. Dark Souls. This game is a miracle: it took a bunch of hackneyed D&D tropes and somehow breathed life into them, making them completely its own, turning them strange again. It's an object lesson in not taking generic tropes for granted. Also, it's interesting that it took a Japanese studio to really nail the aesthetic of medieval-inspired Western fantasy and make it look cool again. To me, most Western fantasy art done by Westerers looks like garbage by comparison.
  6. The Birthgrave, by Tanith Lee. Currently reading this (I'm near the end), and I can't believe I never read it sooner. It's got Lee's usual dreamlike, gothic feel of disassociation and psychosexual weirdness, married to old-fashioned sword & sorcery action, a bleakly colourful surrealist planet, and a protagonist who might or might not be a female Thulsa Doom. This book somehow articulates so much of what I want from fantasy RPGs, in ways I've never seen before.
  7. Mad Max. All of them, especially Fury Road. What if your entire game was a car chase, and the car chase told a story? What if there was no hope, and you just kept going anyway?
 

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