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)

Discussions of modern influences in gaming include media of all kinds. In an interview about the Appendix N series reread Bart Carroll conducted with Tim Callahan and Mordicai Knode. Tim notes, “So a 2013 Appendix N would have to include some books, some movies, some television shows, some comic books, and some video games to have any kind of accuracy. That’s what whirls together to shape our conceptions of fantasy worlds.” By way of example, the recently released Starfinder game from Paizo has an Inspirational Media list where all those are represented.

In the spirit of the original Appendix N, I’ve compiled a list of post-apocalyptic books that I think reflect some aspect of the setting from the original rules or that match my preference in the style of game I enjoy. There are plenty of works that could be added to this list, some post-apocalyptic and some detailing specific apocalyptic scenarios as they unfold. Examples include John Brunner’s The Sheep Look Up, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer, and M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts. There are books that take place on a world devastated by an alien invasion or a zombie outbreak and many other scenarios, but that’s never been the feel of Gamma World for me. If you want a different (multimedia) list, great example is this list compiled by Jay.

A Gamma World Reading List

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