Appendix N.: a Short Review

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Book cover Appendix N
Inside front cover Appendix N

Appendix N. The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons and Dragons (edited by Peter Bebergal) is a collection of short tales, poems, and even a brief bit of sequential art that highlights the inspiration of D&D, originally published in 1974. 

The book takes its title from an appendix listed in the 1979 Dungeon Masters Guide, being a compilation of stories and novels for further suggested reading by DMs and players. It is well-laid out, with a fine cover by Arik Roper and small spot illustrations used as section separators by Alex Crispin (did they do the maps on the interior front and back covers as well?); The maps printed in blue on the inside covers doesn't refer to any particular tale, nor is it keyed in the text, it's supplied for flavor only, simply a nice touch for referring back to the Dungeons & Dragons.

The book's introduction makes it clear that Appendix N. was only a starting point for the selection of the stories, and some others were chosen using other D&D sources, such as the Inspirational Source Material on page B62 of the 1980 Basic D&D Rulebook (Moldvay, 1980). This, combined with the decision to include less anthologized tales, keeps the book in the spirit of the DMG's original Appendix N.

I have a tendency to collect anthologies of weird fiction, and as such, this book falls squarely within my interest. I recommend it.

The stories in order are:

"How Sargoth Lay Seige to Zaremm" by Lin Carter

An overzealous conqueror takes his conquests one city too far. (This tale strongly sets the flavor of this collection. The denuoement even reads like a brief summary of how a tabletop session of a fantasy wargame might go in an adventure.)

"Tale of Hauk" by Poul Anderson

When the enraged, abusive dead walk again, only the son can put things aright.

"Jewels in the Forest" by Fritz Leiber

Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser embark on a treasure hunt from ancient clues left in books by the original owner of the Jewels. But they aren't alone, and the treasure itself is an elaborate trap.

"Empire of the Necromancers" by Clark Ashton Smith

A city in the desert doomed by disease is returned to unlife by two necromancers, but the dead resist and take back their interrupted repose. (A tale from the Zothique collection.)

"Turjan of Miir" by Jack Vance

A sorcerer bent upon the task of creating humans encounters little success—until he performs a favor for another sorcerer.

"A Hero at the Gates" by Tanith Lee

A wandering adventurer is brought to a putatively cursed city, but he correctly perceives where the true threats are and dispatches them.

"Tower of the Elephant" by Robert E. Howard

Seeking a treasure, Conan must climb the tower, but what he finds inside is both expected and unexpected — leading him to assist in fulfilling a doom upon the owner of the tower.

"Song of Swords" by Fred Saberhagen

Each blade has its own stanza in this poem.

"Dreaming City" by Michael Moorcock

Elric must return to Imrryr to recover his birthright — but the cost proves higher than the albino weilder of Stormbringer was expecting.

"The Doom that Came to Sarnath" by H. P. Lovecraft

The consequences of genocide can be slow to realize, but in this tale, rather thorough once an elder god takes action.

"Tower of Darkness" by David Madison

Wandering strangers encounter a town held thrall to creatures of the night.

"Straggler from Atlantis" by Manly Wade Wellman

A survivor of the recently-lost city of Atlantis becomes an unlikely swordsman for a race of giants against an otherworldly foe.

"The Man Who Sold Rope to the Gnoles" by Margaret St. Clair

Negotiations require a certain level of awareness when it comes to closing a sale if the salesman is expected to survive the transaction. (An excellent story for inclusion in a collection such at this.)

"Pit of Wings" by Ramsey Campbell

Slavery in service to winged monsters arouses the vengeance of a wandering swordsman.

"Black God's Kiss" by C. L. Moore

Revenge is a powerful motive, and once committed with the assistance of powerful demons, carries a price.

"The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth" by Lord Dunsany

A lyrical adventure of dragons and swords, but in retrospect, perhaps the adversary advertising the means to his own downfall was a flawed move.

"Sword of Dragonus" by Frank Brunner

Dragonus must recover a stolen woman from an evil sorcerer in this comic.

  1. Bebergal, Peter, editor. Appendix N. The Eldritch Roots of Dungeons and Dragons. Strange Attractor Press, 2020.
  2. Gygax, Gary. Dungeon Masters Guide. TSR, 1979.
  3. Moldvay, Tom. Dungeons & Dragons Fantasy Adventure Game Basic Rulebook. TSR, 1980.
  4. Smith, Clark Ashton. Zothique. Ballantine Books, 1970.