Thursday, July 28, 2011

A Game Master's "Appendix N" -- A List of Books Every GM Should Own

Gary Gygax's list of recommended reading, is "appendix," on page 224 of the first Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master's Guide holds a special place in the role playing game community.  In role playing circles, the list is as influential -- if not more so -- than the Lin Carter Ballantine Adult Fantasy series is for Fantasy fans in general.  Gygax provided the list so that Dungeon Masters could be filled with the same wonder and inspiration that eventually culminated in his creation of the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game.

The appendix is quite marvelous.  It begins by mentioning that Gygax's father's story telling was a key component in sparking young Gary's imagination.  Too often discussions of Appendix N leave out the opening paragraph when discussing the important influences, but we should all remember how important it is to share stories with our children and to take some time to make up our own bed time stories.  It is wonderful to read to our children, but by telling them stories we show our children that it is okay to invent their own tales.

But this post isn't about Gary's list. There are plenty of posts discussing "Appendix N," such as this Cimmerian post on the topic. The original "Appendix N" was a list of inspirational authors and works of fiction that Dungeon Masters could read to spark their narrative imaginations, and better understand the kind of Fantasy that would be experienced using the Dungeons & Dragons rules. That was a lofty goal, and one that the list succeeded at, but it is only half of what a good GM needs. A GM needs both food for the imagination, and food for the presentation.

By this I mean that GMs need stories that can lead them to create wonderfully rich narratives for their players, but they also need the tools that will help them to manage very good sessions. Essentially, GMs need both a degree in "Literature that Inspires Good Gaming" and "Game Session Management." Over the 25+ years that I've been running games, and as someone who was once a terrible GM, here is a list of books I've found invaluable. Future blog posts (on no particular schedule) will highlight some of these books and talk about why they are so important.

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