22 August 2012

Inspirational inspirations

I have read much about "Appendix N," which refers to bibliographic section of the 70s DMG that lists inspirational works and authors. Appendix N has become a short-hand in the OSR community for inspirational material.

My dirty secret: I glossed over this section and forgot it actually existed until I checked the index in the DMG tonight. As I re-read it, I see no great surprises other than its brevity. But more importantly, I noticed its placement: toward the back sandwiched in between two rather boring, table-heavy sections. The appendix is a rather mechanical listing of random works with a desultory, if enthusiastic preamble which contains no less than five instances of "I".

You would need to make a successful secret doors check to have noticed it.

Compare this to the Moldvay edition of the B/X rules. On page B62, a large header set in bold Souvenir font stands athwart the top of the page reading "INSPIRATIONAL SOURCE MATERIAL." As this is the penultimate page, it is often seen. At least that has been the case in my experience.

But a good location and a fancy header aren't the only draws to Moldvay's picks. The works cited are bolded and categorized in helpful sections: Fiction: Young Adult Fantasy; Non-Fiction: Young Adult; Short Story Collections; Non-fiction. There are 30-40 works selected from dozens of wonderful authors. Moldvay's preamble is shorter than EGG's and frankly more helpful about how one would use the list he is about to present.

It is to this bibliography of Moldvay's that I most frequently return.

I have always found the DMG and Gygax's writing to be at times remote and inaccessible. The anachronistic phrases that litter the DMG were, perhaps, a little too pleasing to the author himself. That is not to say that DMG isn't EGG's opus magnum, nor am I implying that the copious material found in that volume is not worth of repeated readings. However Moldvay's work, in contrast, has aged better for me. It is more approachable, more fun and less arrogant that EGG's AD&D hardcovers. It has been that Erol Otus illumed work that has kept me in the orbit of D&D for 30 years.