Appendix N

The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons
Narrated by: Brandon Porter
Length: 10 hrs and 22 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (38 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Appendix N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons is a detailed and comprehensive investigation of the various works of science fiction and fantasy that game designer Gary Gygax declared to be the primary influences on his seminal role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons. It is a deep intellectual dive into the literature of SF/F's past that will fascinate any serious role-playing gamer or fan of classic science fiction and fantasy.

Author Jeffro Johnson, an expert role-playing gamer, accomplished dungeon master, and three-time Hugo Award finalist, critically reviews all 43 works and authors listed by Gygax in the famous appendix. In doing so, he draws a series of intelligent conclusions about the literary gap between past and present that is surprisingly relevant to current events, not only in the fantastic world of role-playing, but the real world in which the players live.

©2017 Jeffro Johnson (P)2018 Jeffro Johnson
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    5 out of 5 stars

Good book, frustrating reader

I really liked Appendix N and will be reading some of the books that I was introduced to here. I think it is worthwhile scholarship that Johnson did. The only downside is the reader who is unfamiliar with many of the words used in the book. This isn't limited to fantastical creations, but even words like "milieu."

3 people found this helpful

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Somebody read all the books I never got around to

I really enjoyed the insights presented in this work. The author takes us on a fascinating dive into the literature of SF/F's past, we get a look back at fandom/geek culture and why these materials were so influential, and he does a good job of critically reviewing all the works and authors listed by Gygax. Furthermore, he hypothesizes and draws conclusions from his investigation as to what parts of those works were most influential in the creation of the game. As a roleplayer who cut his teeth on AD&D, and who has referenced that appendix for reading material, I was fascinated by this book.

2 people found this helpful

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Surprising depth

Loved the deepdive into the literary inspiration of dnd. The depth and width of authors and genres covered is staggering. All richly and capably described by the author. must read for Dnd fans new and old.

1 person found this helpful

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Fun and Easy Read

Fun read in and of itself, but also a great trip through gaming,science fiction, and fantasy history. The chapters are self-contained and easy to read it multiple sittings but I still found myself wanting to read one more chapter every time.

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old man yells at cloud

I got this book with great anticipation. As a fan of D&D and many of the stories and authors featured in it, I thought it'd be a sure fire way to pass the time enjoyably in a nostalgic haze.

Unfortunately, the author and the foreword author turned out to be grumpy.

It's a sad thing that even in a book about fantasy I can't take a break from the culture wars. While the author is clearly knowledgeable of the old pulp fantasy, they have a tendency to decry the current state of affairs (the young are ever the target for the blames of the old). And while complaining about the politicization of fantasy and sci fi the author constantly does the same.

I don't need to someone to tell me the old fantasy is good, especially by way of saying today's fantasy is bad. Dying Earth is good no matter how fantasy is doing today. If you don't like politics in your fiction, then stop forcing it on me when discussing fiction.

The truth is, of course, that fantasy and sci fi as imaginative fiction have always, always, had a streak of the subversive, the parable, and the allegorical. Many of the stories high lighted in the book, in fact, have those elements. Dying Earth is one. HP Lovecraft engaged in his own crusade against change in his fiction. I love his work but to try to say that Lovecraft was politically neutral in his work is obviously not well read on Lovecraft.

And while a work doesn't have to engage in deep issues to be good (see Conan), that doesn't mean that work that does is by inference bad. And to engage in some weird conspiracy theory that modern authors agree actively trying to censor old fiction makes the entire exercise suspiciously political in and of itself.

8 people found this helpful

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And enjoyable survey for D&D fans

The author service very long list of books throwing in a lot of opinion about what he likes and doesn’t like. Which is entertaining, but the more surprising thing is that he thinks we care. To be fair, going through book after book as he does like a laundry list would be dry if he left this out. And given that it takes apparently years if you really want to read all the books and appendix N, this is a remarkably easy way to get a feel for the books and literary culture that underlies Dungeons & Dragons.

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Hey you D*** kids! Get off my gaming table!

Like an earlier reviewer, I too was put off by the screaming bias of the author towards the New. While I agree that the old has much to offer, the argument wasn't "it's good to know about old fantasy and SF," but rather, "it's BETTER to know about old fantasy and SF." Within just a few moments of the audiobook, the author had decried Star Trek Next Generation for having a relevant socio-political message and then praised Poul Anderson for doing the same. Admittedly, Anderson was a great writer. But a political or social message is a political or social message, whether it's woven into the text or overtly telegraphed to the audience, and the more I listened, the more I concluded that this was mostly about being offended by where Fantasy and SF have come to today.

However, this derision for the New wasn't limited to the literature the book supposedly surveys: fantasy gaming too has suffered in subsequent years because, to paraphrase, "kids don't read enough these days" and "the Internet makes you stupid."

I was looking forward to a book that illuminated the connections between the origins of Dungeons and Dragons and the list of recommended books in the rules, and when Johnson keeps himself that to that agenda, the book is enjoyable. But his digressions into "what's wrong with fantasy, SF, and gaming today" detract too much for my taste. These digressions are rarely well-supported: in truth, if you don't have a baseline knowledge of fantasy, you'll feel a bit lost, as Johnson regularly references moments from ostensibly popular fantasy and SF without summary explanations to give context. That won't bother a well-read fan of fantasy and SF, but it's going to be a dead-end for other listeners.

In addition to the shortcomings of the actual content, the reader, as noted in another review here, has trouble pronouncing words. While I can overlook not knowing that "genii" sounds just like "genie," thinking that "lead figures" should be pronounced like "let me lead you to your table," is unacceptable.

2 people found this helpful

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A Must Read For Hardcore Roleplaying Gamers

Would you listen to Appendix N again? Why?

Yes just to make a list of books I want to read. I've read about half and have forgotten most of them. Going back and finding these gems will be a pleasure.

What other book might you compare Appendix N to and why?

Nope

Which scene was your favorite?

The review of 9 princes in Amber one of a favorite book but he's right it's a 70's period book.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Inspiration Creation and Imagination

Any additional comments?

Love this book

1 person found this helpful

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Ignorant Author

I suppose i should have googled this author before buying this book. I was shocked at how relatively ignorant the man was about the works he was reviewing, as well as his poor knowledge of RPG history.

Put simply, he's part of the 'old school' movement of folks regarding RPGs, he projects onto old school game products, and the Appendix N fantasy fiction, his own beliefs, needs, and egoisms, without regard to authorial intent or how people at the time actually played the games.

As other reviewers have mentioned, his reviews revolve around creating strawmen who somehow 'hate' classic sci-fi/fantasy (because it is too politically incorrect or features male protagonists) and then he encourages the reader to 'fight the power' and read the classics anyway. It's nonsense, none of these authors are 'condemned' by his mythical 'them' who are out to destroy fantasy and keep him from reading books about 'heroic' characters like himself.

And don't even get me started on his gaming philosophies, which are less objectionable morally but no less nonsensical.

I've long loved Appendix N in the 1e Dungeon's Master's Guide. In fact, when I wrote Knights of the Dinner Table's book review column I used Appendix N to choose most of the authors i reviewed for the column. I was hoping to learn something from this work, but there is no knowledge to be gained in this book, just frustrated ravings of someone who is desperately afraid the world has passed him by.

2 people found this helpful

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A book about nothing

This book is just a lot of whining about why old genre fiction is better than new genre fiction because we didn’t get to see Carrie Fisher’s boobs enough in Star Wars or something. This book is for the kind of person who gets mad when you suggest a black James Bond. Also it’s got casual racism, and the narrator mispronounces words all the time.

TL;DR book sucks read something else.

1 person found this helpful