Friday, March 4, 2011

Appendix N, and Reading

As part of this whole "D&D kick" I have been on lately, I have been reading quite a bit about this history of the game.  One of the things I have learned about is Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading from the first Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide, which is a listing of inspirations for the D&D game itself.  Looking through the list, I have read some, but certainly not all of the books and authors listed.  I clearly need to rectify that.

The first book I read from Appendix N, was Tales of the Dying Earth, a compilation book of the various Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance.  Dying Earth here means a far future where Sol is creeping up to Red Giant in size, the Earth is different than currently, and humanity has changed as a result of millions of years of evolution and history.  Magic has been learned, and various magical items/technological relics are common. 

The book is comprised of two short story collections, and two novel length adventures of one character.  The stories themselves feel quite a bit like traditional fairy tales, and wits are typically the way to solve conflicts.  The stories are packed with instances of the clever hero tricking the villain (or the anti-hero tricking the good person).  Most of this volume is concerned with "Cugel the Clever", a lazy, greedy sort of hero, who none-the-less manages to succeed despite a number of setbacks over the course of two novels.

Where this book fits into the creation of D&D is fairly easy to see.  The magic system of the Dying Earth is essentially the one used for D&D, difficult spells in another language, spells have to be memorized, and limited ability to memorize.   The D&D naming convention for spells seems to come from this as well, with spells called "name's adjective noun" [e.g. Finneous's Flaming Fireball].  Indeed the D&D magic system is sometimes called "Vanican" in reference to Jack Vance.  Magical artifacts too could be said to come from this book, as they are common, powerful, and sometimes random in nature in similar ways to D&D artifacts.

In any case, a very interesting book to read, although perhaps more so as a window into early D&D than on its own.

Now as an interlude from reading Appendix N material, I am on to Towers of Midnight, the 13th  book in the Wheel of Time series [now over 11,000 pages!].  The books are now written by Brandon Sanderson, as Robert Jordan has died.  Pretty interesting thus far. The Wheel of Time is not very D&D in conception, although it does have great artifacts to search for, a number of political entities, and other things which could be useful for world building. [and WotC apparently created a d20 rulebook for the setting as well].  I will post a bit more about that when I am finished (tonight?).

Next comes the final segment of the Book of the Long Sun, Citadel of the Autarch, and after that is Three of Swords, a collection of the first stories of Fafhrd and Grey Mouser.  Looking forward to it!

All of this is happening concurrently to reading the Lord of the Rings aloud to my son while he goes to sleep.  So, plenty of reading going on lately.

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