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Sunday, August 9, 2020

About the Appendix N Library

About the Appendix N Library
I made it back from my business trip to Ft Bragg/Fayetteville NC and even though my luggage space was tight I managed to make space for a couple books I picked up from a used book store. Both of them were compilations of Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories by Fritz Leiber. I only had one Leiber book so far and these two basically filled out the rest of the stories I didn't already have.

Last year I started building up an Appendix N library in earnest. I hit up the used book stores on the regular and have a list of the books I'm looking for. Last year I was "stuck" in the Jacksonville FL area for a month and I found a couple treasure troves of bookstores.

I probably should go back a bit and explain what Appendix N is for those that are coming from another headspace. In the back of the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, listed as "Appendix N" Gary Gygax compiled a list of authors and wrote "All of the above authors, as well as many not listed, certainly helped to shape the form of the game. For this reason, and for the hours of reading enjoyment, I heartily recommend the works of these fine authors to you."

The Original Appendix N ListSo basically the main man himself says that these authors were not only inspirational for AD&D (and clearly all subsequent RPGs) but just good reading. Some of the works by the listed authors can easily be pointed to as inspiration for specific elements of AD&D. I'd list them, but why? You should figure that out yourself.....and while you're at it take some inspiration for making your own tweaks to your game (or not).

So we have a 40 year-old recommended reading list.....have you ever tried to go to the library to pick up an old, non-mainstream book? Not as easy to do as you would think, unless you happen to be part of a HUGE library network (like Tenkar has in NYC). Sure, inter-library loans will help some, but you've got to wait in line with all the other nerds trying to do the same thing.

Actually a LOT of the "official" Appendix N authors had their works published as dime-store paperbacks. Hardcovers aren't always available....they may never have been made, or were made in much smaller numbers. Sometimes you'll luck out and find a compilation or omnibus version with a few books under one cover, but I've found that out more with my own personal Appendix N list.

This is the thing as well.....you really should have your own Appendix N list. The official one in the back of the DMG is a good start, but there has been a lot written in the last 40 years. You might want to add or remove genres, etc. I'll add my personal list at the end of this post, after a couple bits of advice.

Lets say you have your beginning Appendix N list, now where to start?

Libib
I'm going to suggest working a bit backwards and even before picking up your 1st book, well your next deliberate Appendix N purchase (undoubtedly you already have at least one book...right?) figure out how you're going to track your library. I dislike buying a second copy of a book that I don't need because I wasn't tracking...... I personally use Libib, which is free. Google documents/sheets can work just fine, but even a simple hand-written list will suffice, as long as you always have it on you. I'm to the point now where I have most of the books I've been looking for, so I often have just a couple here and there from specific series, or hardcovers I want to replace my paperbacks. In Libib I just have a specific library called "Wanted Books" that lists what I'm needing.

As far as actually getting the books you want for your library.......well, you'll inevitably need to put in some leg work. Used bookstores are my personal go-to. The larger chains are hit and miss, but they have multiple locations and are usually the leading places where people go to sell books in the first place. I do like Half Price Books and when I'm in OKC or Dallas I hit up a few. I have had a couple good finds, but I think the days of walking into an entire library of cheap gaming books is long-gone. Still, there is a gem here & there. The smaller used bookstores, the genuine small business type places (regardless of physical size) have been really good to me. They've been the best place for me to find the old trade paperbacks. Lastly, and I've only done this a couple times to close out series for my library, you have the online retailers like AbeBooks. These retailers are worth checking into after you've been hitting the bookstores a bit and you get a feel for what certain books cost. Just yesterday I bought a book to finish out a series because I could do the mental math and realized I'm just paying an extra $2 for shipping over me buying it in person. Since it could be months or years before I saw that book in the wild......a $2 "premium" is totally worth it.

This weekend I'm relaxing from my trip and organizing my Appendix N library (see where I got the inspiration from?) I've bagged up some of my trade paperbacks to help protect them and generally figured out which books I still need to close out certain series. Now I enjoy the hunt for adding to my library almost as much as I hate buying unneeded dupes. I'm hoping that at least one Tavern reader is motivated to start/formalize their own Appendix N library and maybe....maybe have a bit better luck than I have (not that I'm complaining....)

Frugal GM's Appendix N Library (Authors):
Poul Anderson
Piers Anthony
Robert Asprin
Terry Brooks
Jim Butcher
L. Sprague de Camp
Lin Carter
C. J. Cherryh
David Farland
Craig Shaw Gardner
John Jakes
Robert Jordan
Katherine Kurtz
Tanith Lee
Fritz Leiber
John Moore
Andrew J. Offutt
Jack Vance
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Robert E. Howard

I could be missing some authors, but I've deliberately avoided authors of actual RPG material or TSR books, well at least the ones I know of.

8 comments:

  1. I've found librarything (aka librarything dot com) to be a great tool for cataloging books (and CDs, DVDs, PDFs, ...). It looks to be similar to libib in functionality.

    It has "series" which allow you to find holes in your collection (if someone has defined the series, of course; or you define them to help others). I've also used it to find other works by the same author.

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    1. I'll have to check that out. I've been using Wikipedia to look up books and figure out what is missing, but if that functionality was baked in.....

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    2. Librarything by default keys off of ISBNs (it'll fall back to author/title pairs). So instead of entering a RPG book, I can enter the ISBN. If the number has been registered right (unclear what that is, since a lot of RPG stuff I enter has an ISBN but the sources that it polls doesn't recognize them) it'll populate the "work" with authors, covers, copyright stuff, publisher, etc. For books that have multiple printings, covers, and even languages, this can help you find the alternatives (and I think some of the online booksellers may allow searching by ISBN too).

      You can upload book covers too (I've been doing this for my RPG stuff as the Frog God stuff seems to be one of the has an ISBN but LT can't match it). It also helps in the Frog God case as LT tries to combine books which have the same writer and "almost" the same title (so the PF1, S&W, and 5e versions of a module by default end up merged). Once I separate them out, I can upload the different covers to make it clear that they are different.

      Things are imprecise even if the data is in there. For example there are multiple Tom Baker's. The first OCD type has to go in to the "Tom Bakers" page and assign the Dr. Who stuff to _that_ Tom Baker (which will show up as "Tom Baker(1)" or the like.

      None the less, for the generic uncommon name, even if you have Jane Doe (a 19th century writer) and Jane Doe (the RPG cover artist) comingled you can figure things out. Ideally, someone who knows the modern day Jane Doe and what she wrote goes in and 'splits the author'

      Like wikipedia, it is user sourced so while we can fix errors (Amazon sourced covers can be wrong or of poor quality), in theory new ones can be introduced too (it took me a while to merge the multiple Barrowmaze Complete entries and separate out the non-complete one, as two other persons had not caught the faulty merge and I wanted to make use of the existing cover scan that someone else had uploaded and to do so I had to get that right, for example).

      Oh, and popularity counts (and reviews and ratings)- I can see that X copies of the book are cataloged (privacy settings of accounts may allow me to find who it is or may not). And "similar libraries" (again, privacy settings can constrain this), so I could see that John Smith has a lot of RPG stuff similar to me and browse his stuff to see if he has reviewed some book that I want.

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  2. Other suggestions:
    Roger Zelazny
    Steven Brust
    and more recent:
    Steven Erikson

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  3. Fritz Leiber's Newhon stories are my absolute favorite when it comes to S&S, I believe I own 'em all. As you may know, Gygax and Leiber knew each other personally and Fritz contributed to early issues of Dragon.

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  4. I'm surprised Manly Wade Wellman isn't in your list - his Silver John stories are really strong, and there's a DCC campaign based on the feel of it. Plus, you can find collections of the Silver John stories pretty cheaply - for a time there was one of those Baen free-fiction CDs that had that as a free, legal ebook.

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    Replies
    1. 1st time hearing of this and now I'll be on the lookout. A big part of my family is from that neck of the woods.

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