You know, I’m not sure what I was expecting to happen when Appendix N finally hit Amazon. But look at these rankings for the major D&D non-fiction works on the market right now:
#32,561 Paid in Kindle Store: Empire of the Imagination
#74,548 Paid in Kindle Store: Appendix N
#197,532 Paid in Kindle Store: Of Dice and Men
#259,250 Paid in Kindle Store: Playing at the World
#391,850 Paid in Kindle Store: Rise of the Dungeon Master
#690,875 Paid in Kindle Store: Designers & Dragons
#1,095,727 Paid in Kindle Store: Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks
Now… I’m more than a little biased about this, but think for a moment if you would about the implications of a book like mine going head to head with what Traditional Publishing puts out and then performing this well. What does that even mean?! Heck, I don’t even know, but I’ll tell you just one piece of it.
Back in 2013… something like Appendix N was unimaginable. If you were to walk into a Barnes & Noble and pick up the first book on the shelf about fantasy role-playing that you saw, this is what you would have been confronted with:
First of all, at various points in this tome I quote specific elements of the Dungeons & Dragons rules, including game mechanics, spell effects, and monster descriptions. Unless otherwise noted, these citations refer to version 3.5 of the D&D rules. I default to those rules because they’re what I use with my friends and I like them. Gamers who wish to argue the superiority of their own favored edition are advised to write a letter detailing their position, put it in an envelope, and then stick it where the Sunburst spell don’t shine.
Needless to say, a gauntlet was thrown down there. I remember my exact feeling the first time I saw that. It was a feeling I would have again and again any time I read an article from the newspapers on the subject, all of which were written by people that seemed to think that the most interesting thing about the game of D&D was that Junot Díaz used to play it.
Here’s the thing: the most interesting things there are to discuss on the subject of fantasy role playing games were not getting covered in any substantial way at all. People that relied on the “professionals” to delve into this sort of thing or trust that book getting favorable placement at the big box store were liable to miss a great deal. But on the game blogs…? There were hundreds of people delving into the old games, debating every aspect of them, applying unearthed arcana to their game sessions, and then starting the cycle all over again with whatever combination of research, game design, and rulings got the most mileage.
Games that had spent decades on a shelf gathering dust came down… and with new insights garnered from the blog scene, something really significant started to happen. People that struggled to run role playing games in general started getting results at the tabletop that brought people back again and again for one session after another.
It was awesome.
Now… the book Appendix N ended up taking on a life of its own. I wrote it the same way I game master: with no plan for some sort of epic conclusion but total confidence that everything that I needed to do would be obvious once I got there. But the bread and butter of what went into was basically all of the sort of things people want to talk about when they dig into the nitty gritty of what classic role playing games are really all about when they go onto their game blogs to tell it like it is.
Being immersed in that sort of thing, it seemed obvious that there was a real disconnect between what the “big” publishers were putting out and the actual experiences of people that were looking for solid answers to longstanding gaming problems. It was bewildering, though. How can all these amateurs throwing stuff up onto their blogs know all this stuff while the “real” writer types just missed it?!
But it was definitely real. And it seemed like a real opportunity to me when I noticed this. I thought the stuff on the game blogs and in the PDFs sold on Lulu was way more interesting. And I had a bit of a hunch that other people would agree. All I had to do was take the sort of things game bloggers wrote about and put it together in a format that people that don’t already read game blogs would be able to read.
A lot of people told me that it was a dumb idea, but I didn’t listen. Looking at the rankings now, I think it’s fair to say that the game blogs which I cite in nearly every chapter are vindicated. They really were sitting on a big story that would be of interest to people outside of the “old school” scene.
And there were still more treasures in the pages of those old games that were just waiting to be rediscovered as well!