Gamma World Reading List and the Power of Appendix N

Gamma World 1st Edition box cover

For many old-school gamers who cut their teeth on Dungeons and Dragons, the Appendix N reading list from the AD&D Dungeonmaster’s Guide has become the archetype for gaming-related reading lists. As such, it referenced many obvious sources and inspirations for the rules such as Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series that were the basis for the game’s magic system. A similar reading list, credited to Barbara Davis, appeared in Tom Moldvay’s version of Basic D&D (with a discussion of the differences).

Over time, the Appendix N list has expanded, either with the addition of titles for books where only the author was referenced, the list of books belonging to a series, and books where the influence is so readily apparent that its inclusion seems like an omission. On the other hand, to me, “updated” lists are less of a representation of the influences on D&D and, more specifically, the influences on Gary Gygax when D&D was being created, and are more of a reflection of the tastes of the updater. Though the list may seem somewhat dated, the fact that it’s still a topic of discussion can’t be ignored. In an ENWorld Q&A thread, Gygax said, “The fact is that I wouldn’t change the list much other than to add a couple of novels such as Lanier’s second Hiero yarn, Piers Anthony’s Split Infinity series, and the Disc World books. I would never add other media forms to a reading list. If someone is interested in comic books and or graphic novels, they’re on their own.” (2007)

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Mapping Monday: Villains and Vigilantes

In another set of campaign maps, these were created for a series of adventures I ran in a shared universe where we traded off gamemastering duties and, at least at one point where the group had grown too large to sustain, split into multiple groups. This set of adventures was originally created to be run with the Villains and Vigilantes rules from FGU before we later migrated to Superworld.

Detective Comics #526 commemorating Batman’s 500th appearance

The flavor was intended to be street-level with settings heavily influenced by the Batman story, “All My Enemies Against Me”, in Detective Comics #526. In addition to the idea of different villains working together in groups, there was also the idea of the city being divided into areas controlled by different gangs with different plots in motion that the heroes needed to foil but, since the villains were working together, those plots interlocked and led from one to another. The maps themselves consisted of a large city map with various local maps that, in retrospect have elevations that I suspect were influenced by the Marvel Super Heroes game battle maps and by the map of Midville included in Car Wars, both of those being purpose-built maps with layouts suited to the types of gameplay those games favored. Curiously, at least the area I mapped seems to be zoned almost entirely for one- and two-story structures.

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Mapping Monday: Psi World and Dystopias

Psi World cover

Despite the sparsity of the rules and the limitations of the setting, the Psi World game was a great jumping-off point for a dystopian future built around psionic powers. The campaign I began developing was based on the game materials with a cyberpunk dystopian near-future setting, but centered around those with psionic abilities who, rather than merely being outcasts like hackers and rebels in such a setting, were instead forced to live on the fringes or to hide out due to their very nature.

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Mapping Monday: My Gamma World Campaign – Detail Maps

As mentioned in my previous post about a long-running Gamma World campaign, the maps increasingly became more detailed and linear to meet the needs of the game. This set of maps was pretty much the second phase of the campaign after the players had confronted the threat posed by the Unclean and turned their attention to the lands inhabited by the Death Groups, a combination of the nomadic aspects of the Red Death cryptic alliance (thus the name, but with the extermism subsumed by the group known as the Seekers of the Red Sword) and the willingness to live in radioactive areas like the Radioactivists (and thus having access to higher technology, like the Unclean, but with less infrastructure to take advantage of it, due to their nomadic society).
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Park Maps in the Style of Tolkien

The beauty of a good map is that it can be lifted from anywhere and used as an adventure setting for a game with minimal modification. I leanred this lesson early with a gamemaster who used a detailed topographical map of a section of bayou for an adventure that involved the party being pursued in boats by the angry natives who lived there. As waterborne adventures went, it was a blast, event though it did result in a total party kill (TPK). But the map really worked because the features were interesting and varied, but without recognizable landmarks that would have jarred the illusion.

If you’re a fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s style of mapmaking, you should definitely consider the national park maps of Dan Bell. Not only are his stylized maps fun representations of real-world parks, their style readily lends their use to a game or simply as beautiful art for your walls.

Lake District National Park by Dan Bell

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Mapping Monday: My Gamma World Campaign – Mapping the World

Hiero’s Journey and The Unforsaken Hiero

One of the longest running campaigns I’ve ever run was a Gamma World game based on the original first edition rules. In building the world, I used not only elements from the setting sketched out in the book, but elements from other game settings like The Morrow Project and Aftermath along with ideas from film and fiction. The most direct lift was the territory controlled by the Eleveners, a direct lift from Hiero’s Journey by Sterling E. Lanier and its sequel, though the actual details of their society included elements from Miller’s A Canticle for Liebowitz and was a combination of Healers and Restorationists as presented as Cryptic Alliances in the setting. Lifewise, the Brotherhood of the Unclean became simply The Unclean as the dark side to the Restorationists with a healthy dose of other antagonists thrown in including, most predominantly, Radioactivists.

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