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 Post subject: What defines "Appendix N style" literature?
PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 12:14 pm 
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The tricky thing (to me) is to define what kind of book (or movie) "fits" the criteria. It can't just be that works are old, because many older books don't feel like Appendix N. It can't be just "it's so good" because many good books don't feel like Appendix N, either. It has to be books that have the original D&D feel.

In other words, when you read a book or story and try to decide "is this Appendix N or not?" how do you decide?

Some examples of my favorites from the list:
* I think that the early Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser stories (Fritz Leiber) are fantastic examples of D&D/DCC style adventures, written decades before D&D was born. Dark magic, wizards are cryptic, quests for big treasures, characters who start out broke then get rich then end up broke again. Creatures encountered are often strange. The later stories about the same characters and by the same author don’t feel the same to me.
* Conan (Robert E Howard) is an epic character. He doesn’t always win every battle, he battles dark magic with terrifying wizards doing unnatural things, often he’s penniless but has hopes of winning a big payoff at the end. Creatures encountered are often mysterious picts, human or sub-human and with dark plans, but sometimes are unnaturally large snakes or supernatural entities.
* Elric (Michael Moorcock) is an anti-hero. Things often are worse at the end than at the beginning, or at best he breaks even. Sorcery involves pacts with higher beings, often creatures who control the character’s fate. Creatures are often supernatural or are unique beings who bargain with the hero.
* The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien) is a case where the hero starts with little and spends most of his time gaining little ground, but when he finally hits the big payoff the author essentially retires the character. It’s a world where magic can be weak and commonplace or strong and scary. Gandalf, the prime example of “good magic” is also mysterious and often exits the stage to “do stuff” which he never really explains. Creatures are often generic bad-guy orc/goblin types, or dark spiders, or other things of the night or things that live in shadow.
* The Face in the Frost (John Bellairs) has characters trying to puzzle through why dark magic things are happening. The creatures encountered are dark and magical.

Appendix N has dozens of books, and clearly I‘ve only chosen a few of my favorites. What it does, however, is make me think about common elements that help define “an Appendix N story.”

1) The hero usually isn’t a superman. He may be good at what he does and wins most of the time, but he doesn’t win every battle and doesn’t dominate every adventure. He can get knocked out or captured but the bad guys.
2) Magic is not really to be trusted. Sometimes it is dark and scary, or it can be random and whimsical, or it can be tied to secrets, or it can be tied to supernatural creatures who are often self-serving in their own actions.
3) There is often a promise of great treasure, and this often motivates the characters although they don’t seem to keep it for long.
4) Creatures are often fantastic but dark.
5) My favorite Appendix N tends to be shorter stories rather than multi-book epics. (Not always, but often.) These stories can be told in any order and are pretty complete in themselves, and the hero ends up roughly where he started.

Anyway, these seem to me like some of the key elements that help identify a story with the “feel” of Appendix N. What do you think? What have I left off the list?

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 Post subject: Re: What defines "Appendix N style" literature?
PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 11:40 pm 
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Ill-Fated Peasant
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I'd want to start by referencing Zak S. on this specific issue: http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2009/10/where-action-is-part-2-grognardia-jack.html. That post does (albeit with some grumpy throat-clearing about "story gaming") an excellent job pointing out that it's possibly a little backwards to boil down the "Appendix N" feel to a specific set of story beats or background world-building that the right stories share.

Still, I think if you take your points to a higher level of abstraction, you can get to things a little more easily.

I'd say it's not that characters aren't superhuman, so much as they're recognizably human-their ambitions are human-scale, even when they're interacting with grand metaphysical forces (or maybe even especially so)-I'm thinking Fafhrd & the Mouser facing Death to get over their grief, for instance. They're also genuinely flawed.

Similarly, the point about magic is that it's not a technology (de Camp & Pratt notwithstanding). It breaks and burns and has nasty consequences for everybody involved. It always creates victims-I'm thinking about Yag-Kosha or teh crazy old guy in "The howling Tower" here. Even when it's allegedly whimsical.

Monsters, again, are often the same way. They are perversions, abominations, atavisms, but rarely just 1d100 cannon fodder.

But all of this brings me back to Zak's point-that all of this can be seen as an extended inquiry into which different means of problem solving work or don't or fail interestingly in a world where everything is stacked against the everyday working-stiff mercenary or the tough young hustler or the punk kid who thinks she can actually deal with demons and win.

Just my 2 cents-None of it explains the cleric.


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 Post subject: Re: What defines "Appendix N style" literature?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 8:45 pm 
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Location: Chicago suburbs
Thanks for the link. An interesting read, and I shall have to ponder further. 8)

Menocu wrote:
None of it explains the cleric.

:lol: Some interesting discussion on this very issue in the DCC archive section of the boards.

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Marv / Finarvyn
DCC Minister of Propaganda; Deputized 6/8/11
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DCC RPG playtester 2011, C&C playtester 2003,T&T since 2003,
ADRP Since 1993, OD&D player since 1975

"The worthy GM never purposely kills players' PCs, He presents opportunities for the rash and unthinking players to do that all on their own."
-- Gary Gygax
"Don't ask me what you need to hit. Just roll the die and I will let you know!"
-- Dave Arneson


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