APPENDIX N: The Literary History of Dungeons & Dragons

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 science
fiction’s past that will fascinate any serious role-playing gamer. It
also contains an extensive interview with the designer of the Tunnels & Trolls RPG, Ken St. Andre.

Author Jeffro Johnson, an expert role-playing gamer, accomplished
Dungeon Master and three-time Hugo Award Finalist, critically reviews
all 43 works listed by Gygax in the famous appendix of the original
D&D game books, and in doing so, draws a series of intelligent
conclusions about the literary gap between past and present that are
surprisingly relevant to current events, not only in the fantastic world
of role-playing, but the real world in which the players live. Johnson is also the Editor of the Castalia House
blog and a regular contributor there.

Featuring an Introduction by John C. Wright, himself an inveterate role-playing gamer, APPENDIX N is 355 pages, DRM-free, and retails for $6.99.

Brian Renninger described the significance of Johnson’s APPENDIX N:

With this book we are coming out a dark age. Jerry Pournelle has said “The definition of a Dark Age is that we no longer remember what we once could do.” It’s not just that we have lost capability but, not knowing that we ever had capability that makes it dark. Of course, the term “Dark Ages” has fallen out of current fashion. It seems judgmental and unscientific to call that time after the fall of Rome and through the end of the Viking Age “dark” as if it were lesser in some way. But, I’m not an academic and history is not science. And, Rome was sacked. The aqueducts did stop running. Latin was forgotten, by all but a few specialists, to be replaced by the babble of dozens of local tongues. It’s dark because the records of that time are sparse – fewer people wrote and the people who did write, wrote on fewer topics.

Appendix N is just a reading list. But, a reading list tailored to a topic. The topic being inspirational works for playing the original role-playing game – Dungeons and Dragons. The list was intended to inspire players on adding variety to their game. And, to give players examples that explain why the game was made the way it was made.</

Jeffro Johnson set himself the task to read all of Appendix N in the context of its stated purpose. He found what he was looking for: clear evidence for many of the foundational rules of Dungeons and Dragons hidden in plain sight in the text of old fantastic adventure writing. But, he also found more – the nucleus of an earlier canon of fantastic literature. In that canon he discovered greater variety, subtlety, strangeness and a broader sophistication of theme than found in the general run of fantasy writing today. And, he found some damned fun stories.

So, for us, what has been forgotten? To a large degree, we have forgotten the scope that fantasy fiction can obtain when allowed unfettered freedom of imagination. We have forgotten that fantasy fiction can be just as edgy and daring when addressing the best of human nature rather than the worst. In fact, we have forgotten that literature can and should encompass all things. Or, even more, that literature should also encompass impossible things – especially fantastic literature.

And at Castalia House, Schuyler Hernstrom explains how it was that Appendix N started a literary movement:

Jeffro has indeed unearthed something. It is the hidden heritage of our beloved genres. I feel a little embarrassed, frankly, that I was so wrong about the fiction that I love so much. What I thought I knew about the genre was a series of walls and fences, put into place to guide me toward opinions and attitudes that were presented as things inevitable…. Jeffro’s work has become a lodestone, pulling at a set of emerging and disparate writers. We are out there, creating what we want from influences as varied as Lord Dunsany and anime. From the maps he drew we are navigating rivers back to their sources. We are exploring myth and knocking the rust off old ideas like heroism and honor. 

Some may wonder why Castalia publishes such seemingly esoteric books, especially given the fact that I’m not an RPGer, and never was except in the very most casual computer-game sense. The reason is that the dominance of the Left is cultural, and they arrived at their position of political influence in the West primarily through cultural means as per Gramsci rather than the economic means Marx predicted or the violent means Mao, Lenin, and Che utilized. Those on the Right who sneer at cultural matters as being irrelevant or unimportant fail to realize that they are playing a superficial and losing game. It is from children’s tales and children’s games that tomorrow’s voters are made.

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
– GK Chesterton