Appendix N and cousins

AD&D grognards and in particular OSR types seem fixated on Appendix N of the original Dungeon Master’s Guide, which boiled down to a list of fictional sources that Gygax liked.

Next to Appendix N, the “inspirational reading material” from the Moldvay Basic D&D set gets short shrift, which is both sad and puzzling given how much richer and diverse the content is. At one time, one OSR author I spoke with pretty much waved away its existence, which is frankly absurd given how much closer Basic D&D is to the stripped down ethos of many OSR retroclones than AD&D.

Then there’s D&D5e’s Appendix E which is basically a modernized (and diversified) Appendix N, with some very curious additions (in a really good way).

Appendix N

The original from the DMG. It’s trivial to find this list with a quick google search (e.g. here).

Brackett, Leigh
Brown, Frederic
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: “Pellucidar” series; Mars series; Venus series
Carter, Lin: “World’s End” series
de Camp & Pratt: “Harold Shea” series; THE CARNELIAN CUBE
Derleth, August
Dunsany, Lord
Farmer, P. J.: “The World of the Tiers” series; et al
Fox, Gardner: “Kothar” series; “Kyrik” series; et al
Howard, R. E.: “Conan” series
Lanier, Sterling: HIERO’S JOURNEY
Leiber, Fritz: “Fafhrd & Gray Mouser” series; et al
Lovecraft, H. P.
Moorcock, Michael: STORMBRINGER; STEALER OF SOULS; “Hawkmoon” series (esp. the first three books)
Norton, Andre
Offutt, Andrew J.: editor of SWORDS AGAINST DARKNESS III
Pratt, Fletcher: BLUE STAR; et al
Saberhagen, Fred: CHANGELING EARTH; et al
Tolkien, J. R. R.: THE HOBBIT; “Ring trilogy”
Weinbaum, Stanley
Wellman, Manley Wade
Williamson, Jack
Zelazny, Roger: JACK OF SHADOWS; “Amber” series; et al

Moldvay’s Inspirational Reading

Appearing in the Moldvay Basic D&D set (which predates my Mentzer copy). According to this source, compiled by Barbara Davis. A scan here and what appears to be the complete text here.

Alexander, Lloyd — The Book of Three; Black Cauldron; Castle of Llyr, et al.
Baum, L. Frank — The Wizard of Oz; The Emerald City of Oz; The Land of Oz, et al.
Bellairs, John — The Face In the Frost; The House Without a Clock on Its Walls; The Figure In the Shadows, et al.
Burroughs, Edgar Rice — A Princess of Mars; At the Earth’s Core; Tarzan of the Apes, et al.
Carroll, Lewis — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking Glass
Garner, Alan — Elidor, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen; The Moon of Gomrath, et al.
Le Guin, Ursula K. — A Wizard of Earthsea; The Tombs of Atuan; The Farthest Shore, et al.
Lewis, C. S. — The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe; Prince Caspian; The Voyage of the “Dawn Treader”, et al.
Barber, Richard — A Companion to World Mythology
Buehr, Walter — Chivalry and the Mailed Knight
Coolidge, Olivia — Greek Myths; The Trojan War; Legends of the North
d’Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin — Norse Gods and Giants; Trolls
Hazeltine, Alice — Hero Tales from Many Lands
Hillyer, Virgil — Young People’s Story of the Ancient World: Prehistory — 500 B.C.
Jacobs, Joseph — English Folk and Fairy Tales
Macauley, David — Castles
McHargue, Georgess — The Beasts of Never: A History Natural and Unnatural of Monsters, Mythical and Magical; The Impossible People
Renault, Mary — The Lion in the Gateway
Sellow, Catherine F. — Adventures with the Giants
Sutcliff, Rosemary — Tristram and Iseult
Williams, Jay — Life in the Middle Ages
Winer, Bart — Life in the Ancient World
Anderson, Poul — Three Hearts and Three Lions; The Broken Sword; The Merman’s Children, et al.
Anthony, Piers — A Spell for Chameleon; The Source of Magic; Castle Roogna
Asprin, Robert — Another Fine Myth
Brackett, Leigh — The Coming of the Terrans; The Secret of Sinharat; People of the Talisman, et al.
Campbell, J. Ramsey —Demons by Daylight
Davidson, Avram — The Island Under the Earth; Ursus of Ultima Thule; The Phoenix in the Mirror, et al.
de Camp, L. Sprague — The Fallible Fiend; The Goblin Tower, et al.
de Camp, L. Sprague and Pratt, Fletcher — The Incomplete Enchanter; Land of Unreason, et al.
Dunsany, Lord — Over the Hills and Far Away; Book of Wonder; The King of Elfland’s Daughter, et al.
Eddison, E. R. — The Worm Ouroboros
Eisenstein, Phyllis — Born to Exile; Sorcerer’s Son
Farmer, Phillip Jose — The Gates of Creation; The Maker of Universes; A Private Cosmos, et al.
Finney, Charles G. — The Unholy City; The Circus of Dr. Lao
Heinlein, Robert A. — Glory Road
Howard, Robert E. — Conan; Red Nails; Pigeons from Hell
Lee, Tanith — Night’s Master; The Storm Lord; The Birthgrave, et al.
Leiber, Fritz — The Swords of Lankhmar; Swords Against Wizardry; Swords Against Death, et al.
Lovecraft, H. P. — The Doom that Came to Sarnath; The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath; The Dunwich Honor
Merritt, A. E. — The Moon Pool; Dwellers in the Mirage; The Ship of Ishtar, et al.
Moorcock, Michael — The Stealer of Souls; The Knight of the Swords; Gloriana, et al.
Mundy, Talbot — Tros of Samothrace
Niven, Larry — The Flight of the Horse; The Magic Goes Away
Norton, Andre — Witch World; The Year of the Unicorn; The Crystal Gryphon, et al.
Offutt, Andrew — The Iron Lords; Shadows Out of Hell
Pratt, Fletcher — The Blue Star; The Well of the Unicorn
Smith, Clark Ashton — Xiccarph; Lost Worlds; Genius Loci
Stewart, Mary — The Crystal Cave; The Hollow Hills; The Last Enchantment
Stoker, Bram — Dracula
Swann, Thomas Burnett — Cry Silver Bells; The Tournament of the Thorns; Moondust, et al.
Tolkien. J. R. R. — The Hobbit; The Lord of the Rings (trilogy)
Vance, Jack — The Eyes of the Overworld; Dying Earth; The Dragon Masters, et al.
Wagner, Karl Edward — Bloodstone; Death Angel’s Shadow; Dark Crusade, et al.
White, Theodore H. — The Once and Future King
Zelazny, Roger — Jack of Shadows; Lord of Light; Nine Princes in Amber, et al.
Some additional authors of fantasy fiction are:
Beagle, Peter S.
Bok, Hannes
Cabell, James Branch
Carter, Lin
Cherryh, C. J.
Delany, Samuel R.
Fox, Gardner
Gaskell, Jane
Green, Roland
Haggard, H. Rider
Jakes, John
Kunz, Katherine
Lanier, Sterling
McCaffrey, Anne
McKillip, Patricia A.
Moore, C. L.
Myers, John Myers
Peake, Mervyn
Saberhagen, Fred
Walton, Evangeline
Wellman, Manly Wade
Williamson, Jack
Carter, Lin (ed.) — The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories (in several volumes); Flashing Swords (also in several volumes)
Offutt, Andrew (ed.) — Swords Against Darkness (in several volumes)
Borges, Jorge Luis — The Book of Imaginary Beings
Bullfinch, Thomas — Bullfinch’s Mythology: The Age of Fable, The Age of Chivalry
Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend

Appendix E

5th Edition D&D, supposedly the “most OSR-like” mainstream D&D ever, has its own list which is essentially an updated Appendix N. In 2014 Matt Staggs authored an article on the modern additions which include Lynch, Pratchett, Martin and even Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon. I’ve reproduced the additions below.

Ahmed, Saladin: Throne of the Crescent Moon
Alexander, Lloyd: The Book of Three and the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain series.
Anthony, Piers: Split Infinity and the rest of the Apprentice Adept series
Augusta, Lady Gregory: Gods and Fighting Men
Bear, Elizabeth: Range of Ghosts and the rest of the Eternal Sky trilogy
Brooks, Terry: The Sword of Shannara and the rest of the Shannara series
Cook, Glen: The Black Company and the rest of the Black Company series
Froud, Brian & Alan Lee: Faeries
Hickman, Tracy & Margaret Weis, Dragons of Autumn Twilight and the rest of the Chronicles Trilogy
Hodgson, William Hope: The Night Land
Jemisen, N.K.: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and the rest of the Inheritance series, The Killing Moon, and The Shadowed Sun
Jordan, Robert: The Eye of the World and the rest of the Wheel of Time series
Kay, Guy Gavriel: Tigana
King, Stephen: The Eyes of the Dragon
LeGuin, Ursula: A Wizard of Earthsea and the rest of the Earthsea series
Lynch, Scott: The Lies of Locke Lamora and the rest of the Gentlemen Bastard series
Martin, George R.R: A Game of Thrones and the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire series
McKillip, Patricia: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld
Mieville, China: Perdido Street Station and the other Bas-Lag novels
Peake, Mervyn: Titus Groan and the rest of the Gormenghast series
Pratchett, Terry. The Colour of Magic and the rest of the Discworld series
Rothfuss, Patrick: The Name of the Wind and the rest of the Kingkiller series
Salvatore, R.A.: The Crystal Shard and the rest of The Legend of Drizzt
Sanderson, Brandon: Mistborn and the rest of the Mistborn trilogy
Tolstoy, Nikolai: The Coming of the King
Wolfe, Gene: The Shadow of the Torturer and the rest of The Book of the New Sun


Obviously here at Fictoplasm we’re keen on genre representation and conscious appropriation of literary sources. If the goal of your RPG is to capture the essence of Appendix N (to the exclusion of other sources) then great; but that presupposes that Appendix N is a tightly focused body of work. I’ve not read widely enough to say it is or is not, but aside from some lowest common denominator stuff (the weird of HP Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, the “amoral vigour” of Leiber and Howard, etc.) I’m struggling to see that focal point.

It makes a lot more sense to treat Appendix N as a point of origin or hub from which your sources will deviate, and Appendix E makes total sense in this case: it’s informed by a changing landscape of new fiction as well as divergent tastes and a critical eye on past omissions — so we get Gene Wolfe, Ursula K Le Guin, Guy Gavriel Kay, Scott Lynch, Saladin Ahmed and so on.

The really interesting one is the Moldvay list. Unlike Appendices N and E which have and will persist thanks to market penetration and the availability of the books, that list is a casualty of the gradual metamorphosis of B/X into BECMI (and then the Rules Cyclopedia). But what a brilliant list — a mixture of both fiction and non-fiction, Young Adult and Adult fiction which inclues Alan Garner, Lewis Carroll, Frank L. Baum, Jorges Luis Borges, Mary Renault, E.R. Eddission, Tanith Lee and others.

Now, you could argue that such a list is too long and diverse; but I think that argument only holds if you think Appendix N has an actual point, other than being a collection of (mostly) worthwhile fantasy novels.

Naturally, take the “definitions” implied by such lists with a pinch of salt. After all Vance’s Lyonesse is missing — to be expected having been published in 1983 — although the omission of Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) has no such excuse.

Episode 209: Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Josh, Ralph and special guest Paul Mitchener voyage across Usula Le Guin’s classic fantasy Earthsea.

Show Notes

A Wizard Of Earthsea // The Tombs of Atuan // The Farthest Shore // Tehanu // plus other short fiction set in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea

Josh Fox, Ralph Lovegrove, Paul Mitchener

Synopsis (the original trilogy) 00:40 // Tehanu 05:45 // Themes 09:25 // The RPG Bit — Josh’s Game 26:00 // Paul’s Game (Everway) 27:25 // Ralph’s Game (Beyond the Wall by Flatland Games) 30:05 // Archipelago 34:30 // Last Words 36:55

Shameless Plug

Ralph’s Beyond the Waves idea for Beyond the Wall (halfway between Earthsea and Zelda: The Windwaker)

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 208: The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Mo, Liz, Ralph and special guest Paul Mitchener discuss Ursula Le Guin’s magnificent The Dispossessed.

Show Notes

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin

Paul Mitchener, Mo Holkar, Elizabeth Lovegrove, Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 01:40 // “The Hobbit, basically” 05:50 // Remarks 09:35 // Paul’s game (Hot War) 15:00 // Mo’s game (hacking Rise and Fall) 18:10 // Liz’s game (inc. Bite Me) 20:50 // Ralph’s game 25:00 // The Hainish Cycle 29:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode A.1: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

In this very special episode we decided the best way to treat Herman Melville’s classic was to go back to our analogue roots. We discuss open seas, confined spaces, love among the sailors, Ahab the Eternal Champion, and more.

To get your copy please send a stamped self-addressed envelope together with a 50p cheque or postal order to the address given at the end of the podcast.

Episode 207: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Ralph, Liz and Josh consider Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon, inter-party relationships, re-skinned D&D, expertise, god, and getting old.

Show Notes

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Josh Fox, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:35 // It’s D&D, isn’t it? 09:30 // Old Age 17:45 // Other modern fantasy 23:30 // What is expertise? 36:00 // Night Witches 40:30 // Hot War and Malandros 47:45 // Closing remarks 51:30

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 206: Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Ralph is joined by special guest Baz Stevens to discuss traction cities, airships and Municipal Darwinism in Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines.

Show Notes

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Ralph Lovegrove joined by Baz Stevens, one half of the Smart Party podcast

Synopsis 02:15 // Comments 06:15 // Slipstream 23:30 // Baz’s RPG ideas 27:40 // Moorcock’s Revenge of the Rose 28:00 // FAE and Spirit of the Century 28:25 // Castle Falkenstein 34:00 // Lace and Steel 34:45 // James Lovegrove’s The Hope 39:15 // Paranoia (as Brazil) 40:25 // Lost boys and Blades in the Dark 42:15 // Closing remarks 44:45

Enough About Me, Bill Paxton

Shortly after we recorded this episode Bill Paxton died on the 25th of February. Roleplayers will fondly remember his contributions to speculative genre films such as Aliens, Near Dark and Edge of Tomorrow.

Slipstream was a commercial and critical flop despite starring Paxton alongside Mark Hamill, Kitty Aldridge, Bob Peck, Ben Kingsley and F. Murray Abraham among others and directed by Star Wars collaborator Gary Kurtz. It’s not a great film. Perhaps if it had been made today with modern CGI and post-Fury Road sensibilities (a diverse cast, maybe) then the apocalyptic scope of the film would be realized.

RIP Bill Paxton.

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 204: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

Becky, Ralph and special guest Tod Foley discuss the bizarre, creeping horror in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach series.

Show Notes

Annihilation (and sequels) by Jeff Vandermeer.

Ralph Lovegrove with Becky Annison and Tod Foley

Bronson Pinchot has a lovely voice 01:05 // Synopsis (and general conversation) 01:45 // RPG ideas start 07:40 // Man Against Fire (Black Mirror) 08:35 // Archipelago and Itras By 11:30 // Itras By 11:40 // Lots more RPG options from Tod 13:40 // Bleed 15:45 // De Profundis 19:40 // Hot War 32:20 // LARP 42:50


We covered a lot of different games in this episode, so here they are in order of mention:

  • Archipelago
  • Itras By
  • Stalker RPG
  • Day Trippers
  • Cypher System
  • Dread
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • De Profundis
  • Hot War

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“Another Version Of You” from Thoughtless by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 203: The Infernal Desire Machines Of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter

Ralph and special guest Mathew Downward discuss consensus reality in Angela Carter’s The Inferal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman.

Show Notes

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman by Angela Carter.

Synopsis 01:05 // Comments begin 13:05 // Mage: The Ascension 18:30 // Psychosis RPG 26:35 // Social Contracts 29:55 // Everway 30:50 // RuneQuest III 39:05 // Crypts and Things 40:00 // Black Dog Derive (for the Stalker RPG) 43:25 // PbtA moaning 48:10 // What we like about OSR (Sine Nomine, LotFP) 50:20


We recorded the podcast last year but it so happens that just yesterday, the 25th anniversary of Carter’s death, Mathew released Infernal Desire Machines, the hack of the Psychosis RPG mentioned around halfway into the episode. Read it, absorb it, play!

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive

Episode 202: The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

In this episode Becky, Liz and Ralph split off and explore the many lives of The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper.

Show Notes

The Margarets by Sheri S. Tepper

Becky Annison, Elizabeth Lovegrove and Ralph Lovegrove

Synopsis 00:33 // Comments 05:30 // RPGs, shared characters and concluding the game 11:30 // Becky’s RPG 20:30 // Liz’s RPG 25:30 // Ralph’s RPG and Blake’s 7 29:00 // Non-simultaneous travel and communication (and Ursula Le Guin) 38:00 // Other Tepper recommendations 40:10

(we namecheck Beyond the Wall and Traveller in this episode)

Music credits

“Is That You Or Are You You?” from Reappear by Chris Zabriskie

“But Enough About Me, Bill Paxton” from Direct To Video by Chris Zabriskie // bandcamp // free music archive