The first edition of Dungeons and Dragons included an Appendix N: Inspirational and Educational Reading. I have been a lifetime lover of reading. In grade school I’d get in trouble for reading too much—I’d hide a book under my desk and get caught during math reading it. My teachers were quite confused about what to do with a student who read too much. And so even before I became inspired to play Dungeons and Dragons from the first time I saw the Inspirational Reading appendix I was intrigued.
Appendix N lists “authors [who] were of particular inspiration” to Gygax as he was designing the Dungeons & Dragons rule playing game. To me, it is incredibly interesting to look back in time and see what sparked the ideas that led to the game that we’re all playing. I think it’s useful both as a player designing her character and a dungeon master designing her games to be familiar with the material that sparked the ideas in the minds of the game’s creators.
That said, I never played AD&D or any version since, excepting a couple of fizzled groups.When I started building my own campaign, and reading through the core books, I stumbled upon Appendix E, the updated list of sources of inspiration. Sussing out the sources for monsters such as the Spirit Naga or such classic environs as the Tomb of Horrors immediately piqued my interest. As I’m picking up the game now in its 5th Edition, it isn’t Appendix N that is my cultural inheritance but Appendix E, now provided to all players in the Players’ Handbook rather than only to DMs in the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Appendix E lets us look at modern D&D’s author’s influences. Throughout the years, the broad fantasy worlds of D&D’s settings such as Greyhawk, Dark Sun, and the Forgotten Realms have themselves inspired new works. Stranger Things, a popular example obviously enkindled by D&D, shares many influences in this list with works like Harry Potter and A Game of Thrones. I particularly enjoy that this list includes The Crystal Shard, a novel set in the Forgotten Realms and with one of the most famous D&D characters, Drizzt Do’Urden, figuring prominently. It indicates that D&D’s lead designers Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford are taking the “expanded universe” of the Forgotten Realms and incorporating ideas back into the game.
I have compared the Appendices, and I’m excited to see that the diversity of the authors has increased greatly. As the list has expanded from 29 entries to nearly 60, it has gained more non-white, non-male representatives. The very first entry is Saladin Ahmed, author of Throne of the Crescent Moon, who brings a unique perspective of Middle Eastern inspired mythos. N.K. Jemison, whose The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms earned her numerous nominations and awards, went on to become the first black person to win the Best Novel Hugo for The Fifth Season, a prestige she repeated with its sequel The Obelisk Gate. Appendix E also contains some of my favorite authors, including Lynch, Pratchett, and Rothfuss, contemporary writers some of whom have come full-circle, having been inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and now inspiring the latest edition in turn.
I’ve set myself a goal to read all of the Appendix. The full list is extensive, far beyond the 57 entries, as some include a specific recommendation for an author but others are complete series or even the complete works of an author. In these cases, I’d like to instead commit only to the initial book in a series or a handful of representative pieces from an author’s bibliography. This seems to align with what Steven Lefebvre, creator of this Goodreads list, decided.
In these (web) pages, I’ll also be reviewing the works through the lens of their inspiration for Dungeons & Dragons: what can a Dungeon Master reference when building their worlds, what can players glean as inspiration for their characters, and what did the creators of D&D take from the work. For Dungeon Masters, it may be a really cool set of encounters that could be pulled from the novel, a villain’s motivation, an interesting dungeon, or even a cool item to reward players with. Players might find inspiration for a character’s backstory, or something as simple as how their character might act, interesting role-play aspects such as Conan’s “by Crom” or Kvothe’s tendency to alienate others.
You can find the actual appendix with purchase links at Inspirational Reading.