Sunday, April 3, 2016

Modern Appendix N: Your suggestions?

Dungeons & Dragons was heavily influenced by speculative fiction of the years prior to its creation--everything from classical mythology and folk tales, through the pulp stories of the early 20th century, to then-contemporary novels. These legendaria became known as Appendix N material, so named for the section of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide in which author Gary Gygax listed some of the many influences on his gaming.

There have been plenty of overviews of this source material--see here, here, and here, for example. And because that list of inspirational reading is decades old, folks have been suggesting additions to the literary canon.

Which brings me to my question: What are three relatively new (published within the past three decades or so) works that you would suggest to inspire fantasy gamers?

Here are my suggestions, all of which have great settings and, just as important, great characters:

  • The Deed of Paskanarrion series by Elizabeth Moon: A sheepfarmer's daughter joins a mercenary company, setting her on a path to become a paladin--but not before numerous battles with opposing armies and even creatures of darkness. 
  • Books of the Elements series by David Drake: Four citizens in ancient Rome Carce defend their empire from creatures of the Norse sagas, Native American legends, African mythology, and Indian folk tales, with pulp elements like Atlantean flying ships thrown in.
  • The Desert of Souls by Howard Andrew Jones: Two officials in medieval Baghdad team up to stop a plot against the Caliph in a swashbuckling tale that combines 1930s action with 21st century sensibility--and a djinn.
Your turn: Suggest three works (series or standalone novels) that are inspirational reading for you and your gaming.


opossum101 said...

i have read recently in close succession

the throne of bones by brian mcnaughton

macabre fantasy that provides incredible template for making ghouls the main axis of your campaign. at time equally revolting, humorous and literary. since it is story collection don't be put off by relatively more 'ordinary' first tale.

bard series by keith taylor

picaresque historic fantasy that feels like a breath of fresh air in the stale field of 'celtic' fantasy. suspenseful and believable mixture of myth, legend and history ranging from arthurian to slavic that makes you feel as if it could have been that way. it perfectly captures the world view of the protagonist and treats it with dignity it deserves. while first book is also great series start to shine once titular character meets female danish pirat gudrun blackhair and becomes her 'chronicler'. well worth pursuing.

this crooked way by james enge

mr. enge has come to prominence with his morlock series and this series of short, somewhat interconnected, stories are the perfect jumping on point as well as great read of itself. bizarre vancian societies, naturalistic magic and pure whimsy combine into delightful read.

Tom said...

My problem is that I don't read much new fantasy. I burned out on it for reading (not gaming) a while back and now I spend most of my fantasy reading on older works. Things like The Moon Pool or anything by Clark Ashton Smith.

I'm more current on Sci-Fi and there I'd put things like Hyperion, Snowcrash, and A Hymn for Battle.

HoldFast said...

Most of my reading is non-fiction so my inspiration for games usually comes from television and movies. I keep my tablet with the Evernote app open and whenever an idea strikes me, I'll jot it down immediately.

I cannot help but notice the Paskanarrion story seems to resemble the story told in a recent installment of a big budget, well known motion picture franchise.

Maj. Guiscard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maj. Guiscard said...

"Hammer's Slammers" by David Drake (old favorite)

"Game of Thrones" both books and TV series, since this is the modern era

"Harry Potter" I mean, talk about a fleshed out magical source...

...and REALLY recent, "Guardians of the Galaxy" - band of adventurers go to exotic locales for some low-level petty adventuring, and end up in a plot of ever escalating stakes, until the very existence of the universe is on the table.
(sounds like every RPG campaign I EVER played in.)

Desert Scribe said...

Thanks for the suggestions, folks!

Collin Schrader said...

The Last Stormlord, by Glenda Larke.
A hefty trilogy, I don't remember any other time I've been so impressed with immersion and detail in a setting. Original, unique, coherent ideas regarding the culture and peculiar, very unorthodox magic styles. The setting is not dark fantasy in the way that, say, Warhammer or other gothic fantasy settings are, but the tone and content are very adult, if not grim.

The Thieves' World series of novella collections, by various authors, prominently Robert Lynn Aspirin and Lynn Abbey.
While not a very modern work at this point, it is everything you would want from an Appendix N inclusion. The different authors and their respective characters emphasize different parts of the city of Sanctuary, and different aspects of the fantasy elements present, but you're left with a bustling city that reminds one of Waterdeep or Hillsfar, completely bursting with seedy adventure.

The Redwall series, by Brian Jacques.
Though the typical fantasy tropes are very limited here, the spirits of adventure and whimsy and wanderlust are on every page. And it's not like it isn't fantasy - anthropomorphized woodlands creatures with Medieval technology isn't one of realities closer cousins.
If you had to make direct adjustments to a typical humanoid fantasy setting, mice would be the default men, rats would be orcs, badgers to dwarves, sparrows to some friendly, belligerent winged race. Etc.
The setting is aimed at a juvenile audience, and carries a lighter tone and maybe less-deep introspection, but, heavens help me, I understand trans-pubescent people find value in Harry Potter, too.

As honorable mentions, I'd throw in The Darksword Trilogy by Weis and Hickman, and The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, for very interesting magic systems, and decent settings. Ironically, for excellent settings, I'd recommend the various worlds of Magic: The Gathering, for how locale-hopping on a quest can be different every time.