Sunday, June 23, 2013

Gary Gygax: The Master's Library

Master of the Game is a 1989 book of advice for Dungeon Masters by Gary Gygax. 
The last section of the book, Appendix C: The Master's Library, contains lists of inspirational works similar to Appendix N in the original Dungeon Masters Guide, but with greater focus on non-fiction. Since this book is long out of print, for the curious I have transcribed this list.

"The Master/Grand Master GM must have a well-stocked library with reference, research, and inspirational works ready for his or her use at the moment inspiration nibbles - strikes seldom occur! Because of the vast diversity of genres, and the diversity of times possible, many exact works could not be specified, although I selected a few titles from my own library as examples."

General List of Essential Books
Unabridged Dictionary
Historical Atlas (large)
World Atlas
Encyclopedia (best possible edition)
Historical Timetables
Encyclopedia of Costume
Dictionary of Battles
Atlas of the Universe
Weapons Books

"From this core expand in whatever direction you wish. Some examples"

Boissonade, Prosper. Life and Work in Medieval France. 
Brawn and Scheider. Historical Costume in Pictures.
Broadbent, Michael. The Great Vintage Wine Book.
Byrne, Mrs. Mrs. Byrne's Dictionary.
Cavendish, Richard, editor. Mythology: An Illustrated Encyclopedia.
1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue. Bibliophile Books.
Donnelly, Ignatius. Altlantis, the Antediluvian World.
Friedman, Col. Richard et al. Advanced Technology Warfare.
Glut, Donald. The Dinosaur Dictionary.
Gordsmith-Carter, George. Sailing Ships (and Sailing Craft).
Grun, Bernard. Timetables of History.
Harbottle, Thomas. The Dictionary of Battles.
Keightley, Thomas. The World Guide to Gnomes, Fairies, Elves (And Other Little People).
Kunz, George Frederick. Curious Lore of the Precious Stones.
Macaulay, David. Castle; Cathedral; City; Pyramid; Underground [5 books]
Moore, Patrick. New Concise Atlas of the Universe.
Newmark, Maxim. Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases.
Robbins, Rossell Hope. Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology.
Schumann, Walter. Gemstones of the World.
Shepard, Leslie. Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology.
Stratton, Arthuz. The Orders of Architecture.
Sykes, Christopher Simon. Private Palaces.
Turnbull, Stephen. The Book of the Medeival Knight.
Weapons and Warfare (24 Volumes). Phoebus/BPC.
Wilkinson, Frederick. Arms and Armor.

"Some further examples, some drawn from fiction, will serve to round out an ideal collection"

Far-Future SF
Isaac Asimov - Foundation Trilogy
A. E. van Vogt - Weapon Shops of Isher
L. Ron Hubbard - Mission Earth Dekology
The Fleet Series ("Shared Universe" Anthologies)

Near-Future SF
Any Future Wars/Weapons books 
Robert Heinlein (generally)
A. E. van Vogt - Slan

Science Fantasy
Brian Aldiss - Starship
Roger Zelazny - Amber series
P. J. Farmer - Created Universes series
A. Merritt (generally)

H.P. Lovecraft (generally)
Any Occult Encyclopedia
Any Witchcraft/Demonology/Magic Dictionary or Encyclopedia
Any Poltergeist/Ghost Accounts

James Bond books
John LeCarre (generally)
Alistair Maclean (generally)
Graham Greene (generally)

Annotated Sherlock Holmes
Murder Most Foul, Warden and Groves, editors [crime story compilation]

Multi-Genre Systems (Erroneously called Generic)
H. Beam Piper - Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen
Piers Anthony - Split Infinity

Time Travel
"reference works from pre-history through ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and Victorian Era to the WWI to Modern period plus ability to move into near and far future. Dr. Who books and H. Beam Piper books are useful, as is a collection of RPGs in the genres and time periods to be covered"

"works on mythology, fairy tales, life, weapons and castles of medieval period"
R. E. Howard
Fritz Leiber
Poul Anderson
DeCamp & Pratt
Michael Moorcock

* * * * *

On page 34, Gygax also mentions: "This author has many thousands of volumes (and is in need of a librarian) which are supplemented periodically by old and new works. Publishers Central Bureau (Avenel, NJ) and Barnes and Nobles catalogs are most useful in this regard, but there is absolutely no substitute for periodic visits to your local book shop. When it isn't possible to purchase books, use the library, but it is strongly urged that you obtain your own copy of each and every book which you find generally useful."


  1. the 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica is free online. It was the largest edition and the last scholarly edition. It's viewpoints are more Victorian than Edwardian because the authors are Victorian rather than 20th century 'new men' and it is pre-WWI. It was also the 1st edition of Britanica sold directly in the USA.

    You may also want to find 12 volumes series of books called Masterplots which describe the characters, locales and plots of a vast number of classic, as well as 17th-early 20th century fiction. (It is a great tool for developing a campaign and scenario ideas).

  2. I can recommend "The Oxford Book of Villains," an assemblage of literary villains great and small. They are divided into categories such as master crooks, minor crooks, murderers, seducers and cads, traitors and spies, and tyrants. A wealth of inspiration for fleshing out your antagonists.

  3. Thanks Tony, I hadn't heard of that one.

  4. One of the best Piper stories, and one of the best multi-genre ones, is When in the Course, which is the original version of the Lord Kalvan story. Instead of being sideways in time, a group of freelance explorers discover a medieval like planet