Appendix D: the 5e Appendix N

I happened to come across a copy of the 5e DMG today at work. While I did not get a chance to look too closely at it, a I was pleasantly surprised by all the random tables of dungeon dressing and even random traps and tricks. The other thing I was drawn to was the ‘further reading’ — in this case “Appendix D.”

It’s a fairly interesting list, mixing both some old chestnuts (Gygax’s Role playing mastery makes an appearance, as do several old TSR sourcebooks and even Grimtooth’s traps) as well as some kind of odd choices (as large number of histories of D&D, from Peterson’s epic Playing at the world to the rather underwhelming Of dice & men), a few reference books (including the Writer’s Digest fantasy writer’s reference book, which I happened to pick up at a used book sale recently and thought was a good introduction to the tropes of pseudo-medieval worlds, as well as suggesting some ways to break free of them).

The only thing I found odd was the large number of books on writing, and not just the world-building part but writing drama. That bugs me a little, since I never really liked the “DM as author” idea. The players should be creating the drama too; it may in fact be more their job than the DM’s job. The DM just gives the players levers to pull and things to interact with; the player’s horrible choices and heroic deeds can create all the drama you need. But I probably shouldn’t read too much into that.

But I am pretty happy to see that the PHB and the DMG both have reading lists. I still haven’t had a chance to look at a Monster Manual so I don’t know if that has a reading list too. I hope it does.

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Published in: on February 24, 2015 at 6:00 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. To a certain extent I agree that players should provide the plot, but I think that drama is in fact the responsibility of the DM. Drama being the unexpected snags, delays, and threats that build tension and increase the emotional reward of the eventual success. But yes, it should be a totally different process than writing a book or a play. The best book I could recommend for DMs would be “How to Run” by Alexis Smolensk. Sadly, that will never be on any WotC appendix.

    • Fair enough — it probably is worth recognizing the DM’s role in stirring up the pot and adding conflicts, setbacks, etc., and making sure the NPCs create “needless” drama.

      Re: How to run — I don’t know. The appendix looked pretty inclusive. Mr. Smolensk is quite a character though.

      • That he most certainly is.

    • I am struggling to turn over a new leaf, Mike. Give the book a chance.

      • I just meant I didn’t know about it “will never be on any WotC appendix”! I didn’t mean to slag your book or anything. I have about 30 linear feet of books still to read, so I probably won’t get yours any time soon, but good luck with it!

  2. I wonder how much of that comes from 20 years of Whitewolf style gaming; I remember that the old Vampire corebook pushed for sessions to be more like improv sessions than gaming sessions. Honestly, I very rarely speak as an NPC, but the “storytelling” side of tabletop gaming has probably influenced things enough to where there’s a feeling that the DM needs to have a modicum of theatrical talent. Still, I don’t necessarily think that books on drama should fall under the ‘influences’ list, if Appendix D is indeed trying to be the new Appendix N.

    Also, Man, Of Dice & Men was such garbage. I was meh about it at first, but the more I see or hear about Ewalt and his book the more I hate it and the attention it received, if for nothing else for being such a half-assed effort being passed off as representative of the D&D community and its history.


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