Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finding D&D in Appendix N - Three Hearts and Three Lions

The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG has reacquainted me with Appendix N form AD&D's 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide.  As most of you know, this is the list of literary sources that Mr. Gygax cited as his inspiration for creating the venerable old game that we all love so much.

It occurred to me that many of these books were ones that I haven't read, so I began picking them up.  I started with "Three Hearts and Three Lions" by Poul Anderson.  It is the story of a valiant knight and his adventures in the lands of faerie and elsewhere.  Here are a few of the things that stood out to me as obvious inspirational elements...

(I will be quoting directly from the book and may inadvertently reveal plot details)

Law and Chaos
Throughout the book is the theme of Law and Chaos and their struggle against one another.  Could this possibly the source of the Lawful vs. Chaotic alignment system of D&D?

"Invisible Servant"
The passage below describes a wizard with an "invisible servant"  Definitely reminiscent of the Unseen Servant spell...

"A bottle and three dirty goblets floated in and landed on the table. 'About time,' grumbled the sorcerer.  After a moment, when the invisible servant had presumably left..."

The Troll
At one point in the story, the heroes battle a gruesome troll.  Does the following description sound familiar?

"The troll shambled closer.  He was perhaps eight feet tall, perhaps more.  His forward stoop, with arms dangling past thick claw-footed legs to the ground, made it hard to tell.  The hairless green skin moved upon his body.  His head was a gash of a mouth, a yard-long nose, and two eyes which were black pools, without pupil or white, eyes which drank the torchlight and never gave back a gleam."

Later in the scene, a troll's regenerative ability is described...

"His saber carved a slab off the troll's side.  Greasily, with a sucking noise, that chunk crawled towards its master."


"The troll's smashed head seethed and knit together.  He clambered back on his feet and grinned at them."

Trolls and fire?  It's here too...

"Alianora cried aloud.  She struck back with the torch.  He hooted and went on all fours.  A charred welt across his skin did not heal."

After finding these bits of D&D in Appendix N, I'm off to the next book.  I'll let you know what I find.


  1. For a lot of the law vs. chaos stuff, see the Elric books by Michael Moorcock. I think this was probably the most direct inspiration.

  2. I agree that Moorcock really became the premier source of the whole "Law vs. Chaos" thing. What surprised me was discovering that he wasn't the originator of the idea. I had always assumed that he was. It was quite a revelation for me to understand the Anderson had already had the idea years before.