Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Appendices E and N

The 5e D&D Player's Handbook has an "Appendix E" that I think is worth at least mentioning. Looking over the list, I think there is some merit in talking about at least a few of the works listed in it.

Appendix E is a superset of Appendix N, but it also changes the latter by adding in recommended books for every author listed. Appendix N listed 9 authors "generally" with no specific works – essentially their whole writings. (Although in the case of H.P. Lovecraft, it literally recommends everything.) These thoughts focus on the additions.
  • Ahmed, Saladin. Throne of the Crescent Moon.
This is one of several entries in the list that feels like it was just thrown in because somebody at WotC was reading it, and it helped give the list some "modern" credibility. Nothing against it, but nothing about it suggests D&D.
  • Anthony, Piers. Split Infinity and the rest of the Apprentice Adept series.
This is one of the series Gary Gygax "added" to Appendix N when asked in 2007. I personally find Piers Anthony quite repugnant to my taste, but then de gustibus non est disputandum.
  • Augusta, Lady Gregory. Gods and Fighting Men.
I kind of have to give credit for the authors sneaking some Irish myth into Appendix E. The Irish myth cycles are difficult to piece together and not as popular as Greco-Roman or Norse myth, but have some excellent heroic stuff going on.
  • Brooks, Terry. The Sword of Shannara and the rest of the Shannara novels.
This novel is, literally, everything that is wrong with fantasy from 1977 onward. Its publication – Lester Del Rey literally chose it because it was the most like The Lord of the Rings – was the watershed moment when Extruded Fantasy Product began to overwhelm the burgeoning fantasy scene. It's not as bad as some EFP authors (Terry Goodkind is probably the worst) but it is directly responsible for their existence.
  • Bulfinch, Thomas. Bulfinch's Mythology.
A terrific way to familiarize oneself with Greco-Roman, Arthurian and Carolingian mythology, if a bit dated in language. I've spent more time with Edith Hamilton's Mythology but Bulfinch is really good for the material in Age of Chivalry.
  • Cook, Glen. The Black Company and the rest of the Black Company series.
Another, and in my opinion much more worthy, entry in Gygax's 2007 expansion. The only reason The Black Company wasn't on Gary's original list is that it hadn't been written yet.
  • Hickman, Tracy & Margaret Weis. Dragons of Autumn Twilight and the rest of the Chronicles trilogy.
I have mixed feelings on this; on the one hand, this book did help me get into D&D (though within a few years, I had developed much better taste in fantasy novels). On the other, it is crappy Extruded Fantasy Product and did a lot of damage by pushing D&D in that direction.
  • Jordan, Robert. The Eye of the World and the rest of the Wheel of Time series.
I read several of these books in college. I regret this fact. It manages to be derivative of both The Lord of the Rings and Dune while learning nothing positive from either series.
  • King, Stephen. The Eyes of the Dragon.
What a weird one-off to throw in. I read this book when I was a teenager because my aunt and uncle had every Stephen King book in their house, and one time when we were visiting, I picked up the one book that had "Dragon" in the title. The poison that caused smoke to come out of the king's eyes was the only thing that stuck with me.
  • LeGuin, Ursula. A Wizard of Earthsea and the rest of the Earthsea series.
Earthsea is probably my favorite Young Adult fantasy series. I actually had to read the first book in my freshman English class, and wound up loving the original trilogy. Le Guin is kind of known for her political bent, but Earthsea is just good bedrock fantasy writing.
  • Lynch, Scott. The Lies of Lock Lamora and the rest of the Gentleman Bastard series.
See Ahmed, Saladin above.
  • Martin, George R.R. A Game of Thrones and the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire series.
The only way to read these books is as a prolonged black-comedy parody on the epic fantasy genre. And they're too damn long to bother reading like that. I've come to hate the "grimdark" pseudo-realism of books like this.
  • Pratchett, Terry. The Colour of Magic and the rest of the Discworld series.
Another Gary Gygax 2007 addition. If you like comedic fantasy, then this is better than most. I read a few in high school and it's just not my cup of tea.
  • Rothfuss, Patrick. The Name of the Wind and the rest of the Kingkiller series.
See Ahmed, Saladin above.
  • Salvatore, R.A. The Crystal Shard and the rest of the Legend of Drizzt.
I knew these books sucked when I was 14. They still suck now.
  • Sanderson, Brandon. Mistborn and the rest of the Mistborn trilogy.
See Ahmed, Saladin above.
  • Smith, Clark Ashton. The Return of the Sorcerer.
Gary was wrong to keep CAS off his list in 1977, and wrong to not put him on his 2007 revision. Having a list that includes Lovecraft and Howard but not Smith is like listing great Musketeers and having Porthos and Athos, but not Aramis. Yes, de gustibus, but it's a snub against one of fantasy's all-time greats.
  • Wolfe, Gene. The Shadow of the Torturer and the rest of The Book of the New Sun.
This is one of the best additions that Appendix E makes. An excellent series, worthy inspiration, and a great pick as the last new entry.

There are a couple of entries in Appendix E that I'm not familiar with and have no particular comment on. But there's one omission that is really unforgivable. Catherine L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories are prime D&D material, written in the heyday of Weird Tales, and present one of the great heroines of sword & sorcery literature. She and her husband Henry Kuttner (who often wrote under each other's bylines) were titans of fantasy and science fiction back when there was no divide. Gygax can be forgiven if he was ignorant of Moore; Mearls and the WotC authors, in an age of the Internet and Google, can't. If you can dig up Stephen King's one mediocre fantasy novel, you can certainly spare an entry for one of the greats.

Appendix E, on the whole, probably has too many duds and too many books that are only on the list because they're popular to be a worthy successor of Appendix N. Really, the 11,000+ pages of Wheel of Time and 4,000+ pages and counting of A Song of Ice and Fire alone should disqualify it; The Lord of the Rings is the longest single work in Appendix N and it's less than a tenth as long as the Wheel of Time. Aside from Gygax's additions and a few others, I would be hesitant to put most of these books on the same level.


  1. I actually prefer C. L. Moore's Jirel of Joiry stories to REH...and I'm a big fan of REH.

  2. I just finished reading Throne of the Crescent Moon and thought it didn't live up to the hype, but I think the character Raseed bas Raseed is a great example of a paladin or cleric progressing from "lawful stupid" to "lawful good" in alignment :P

  3. For the record, I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure that actually is the point of the ASOIAF series.

    I can't *really* blame them for including the most well-known D&D-related Extruded Fantasy Product, gotta keep the lights on somehow, but it probably doesn't really belong. Frankly I'm okay with Appendix E, Jirel is a glaring omission, and probably so is The Deed of Paksenarrion, which skirts the line of Extruded Fantasy Product but should probably be required reading for anyone who wants to play a decent paladin.

  4. Having actually read Throne of the Crescent Moon and The Lies of Locke Lamora, I can speak for their D&D bonafides. The material that inspires the game cannot be expected to remain in the pulps of the 50s. I don't really like Robert Jordan either, and can't stand Brooks and Goodkind. But saying they don't belong on the list speaks more of personal preference. Fact is, these works probably did inspire the latest crop of DnD designers, for better or worse.

  5. I too can't agree with Split Infinity. I read it without animus as a young teenager, and it has very little in feel that fits with the game. The world has more of a board game's sensibility (this wizard only makes potions, that wizard only makes wands) or whatever. It's just far too constrained, other than the two dimensions aspect.

    I somewhat disagree on Dragonlance. Sure it's not great writing, and you might not appreciate the high fantasy sensibilities, but it's a world and character set that work just fine in terms of tabletop gaming. Maybe it does too much to directly simulate a campaign storyline than inspire it?

    As for Le Guin, I'd say her sense of anthropological and personal growth themes are what really enriches.

  6. I've read nine of Moorcock's Eternal Champion novels in a row since mid-December. Now on #10. So far about about half were novels I read in the 70s, and about half were ones I missed back then. It's been a good trip down memory lane, but few things old stay fresh (or interesting) for everyone.

    I'm glad they added some new authors to the list. Ahmed is a good addition. I'd be surprised if Leiber was not a major influence on him. I might have added Chabon's "Gentlemen of the Road" to the list too.

    A big omission was Jessica Amanda Salmonson's Tomoe Gozen series. Best fantasy series of the 80s? Maybe so...


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