Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Personal Appendix N
Nicol Williamson as Merlin in Excalibur- Still the Standard for Magic-Users in my mind.
My Personal Appendix N-
I have to say I never read most of what was in Appendix N of the DM's Guide. When I was younger I read through all of the Tolkien I could find. I discovered The Hobbit via the Rankin-Bass cartoon on TV when I was about eight years old. I know I had read the book by the time I was ten and had read the entire Lord of the Rings before I was done with the 5th grade. I found the Silmarillion and devoured it a year or two after that. Robert E. Howard's work I knew mostly from Marvel Comic's version of Conan the Barbarian, and I read Marvel's Conan titles as I could get them, living in the country and not getting much in the way of an allowance was a hindrance, but odd jobs helped and I eventually got to read some of the actual stories the way REH intended when they were re-released in the eighties in "novel" format. The only other author listed in the DMG that I really read a lot of was Roger Zelazny. I got his "Nine Princes in Amber" given to me by a friend who got it from one of those free book-mobiles and didn't like it, but thought that I might. He was right. I thought it was awesome, although it took me years to track down the rest of the Chronicles of Amber and get them read, once again, living in the country kind of burned me. I have read some works by other authors listed in Appendix N, and I have really liked some of their work and some of it I have really not cared much for.
I would have to say that I had more important influences fairly early on. Star Trek was the first cool thing I ever discovered. I found it on TV when I got home from school when I was in kindergarten and was pretty much enthralled by it. The adventures of the crew of the USS Enterprise in space were hands down the most awesome thing I'd ever seen on TV. I made my friends play Star Trek with me during recess and I am not sure they ever saw the show. I don't know where my nerd gene came from, neither of my parents is particularly nerdy, although my dad is a model railroad enthusiast.
When I was in elementary school there was an illustrated book of Greco-Roman Mythology that was a fairly massive volume, larger than other books like a coffee table book and thick too; I discovered it when I was in maybe 1st or second grade and checked it out several times per year until I was advanced to the middle school. Every myth had one full page illustration at the beginning, a drawing done in pencil, and then the story told completely. When I was in 7th grade I discovered Le Morte D'Arthur and Le Chanson de Roland in my Junior High library. I was already playing D&D by then, but they were certainly adding to my repertoire of influences.
The science fiction, fantasy and sword & sorcery movies that came out in the early days of my D&D playing certainly influenced me too. Star Wars was a huge influence on me, and I am pretty sure, every other guy my age; and lets face it, Star Wars is a space fantasy film, NOT science fiction. Star Wars reinforced all the good versus evil, heroic quest, knights with swords stuff that I already loved. Excaliber came out literally days before I played D&D for the first time, I went and saw it with the guy that I would play D&D with for the first time (my dad took us, and managed to remain calm through the armored sex scene that he had just brought 2 kids into the theater to see, we never spoke of it). Arnold's Conan came out early in my D&D years and that was huge for all of us D&D players at the time, REH purists can argue about that movie all they want and how it isn't really Conan; what it is really is a great D&D film.
What got me to thinking about this is that my wife compared my DMing style to "If Robert Jordan and George R.R. Martin had an unholy love-child, but in a good way"; which I thought was kind of strange since I am pretty sure I have not read anything by either author, although I may have read one of Jordan's Conan novels in the 1980's. I used to borrow Conan novels from a friend when I was in junior high and wasn't real picky back then about who the author was. I did watch HBO's "Game of Thrones" and I liked it though. Other people have told me that I have a lot of "Weird Lovecraftian influences" in my games, and I know I have never read any Lovecraft; it's on my to-do list. I guess we can blame the art of Erol Otus and the early D&D modules and Dragon Magazine articles I read as a kid.
Which leads me to this odd point; D&D, AD&D and The Dragon are all part of my "Appendix N", which makes for a kind of weird self-referential game I guess, but at least it's internally consistent, for the most part. The game itself and the writings about the game influenced me on how I play the game. I didn't go into it with decades of wargaming experience. I didn't go into it with decades of Science Fiction and Fantasy literature or pulp Sword & Sorcery tales. I liked Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mythology, History and a bunch of other geeky stuff. I played my first wargame, SPI's Sorcerer, the day after I saw Excalibur in the theater,one week before I played D&D for the first time with my buddy Chris G., who I'd seen the movie with and he thought I'd like the game. We played several games actually, I lost every one. Badly. It would be nice to be a wunderkind at something, but like everything I like doing, I sucked at it at first. The point is I started playing D&D as a kid and I was taught by other kids how to play, then I taught other kids how to play. My dad played too, for a little while, but he never really "got" the point of the game and wasn't real interested in the pseudo-medieval setting, Boot Hill on the other hand, he loved; always turned outlaw though. Mostly it was us kids though and we used the inspiration we had on hand in the late 1970's and early 1980's, Comics, Television, Movies, Books and the game itself.
What's in your Appendix N?