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  1. #1

    Let's do a Birthright "Appendix N"

    Appendix N is an appendix on 1e dungeon master's guide listing all books Gygax conisders inspiration for D&D. You can find a good definition here.

    So, I was thinking, What could be a good 'Appendix N' for Birthright? I think it would be useful to have it on the site, to help newbies understand better the atmosphere and the type of stories that can be created with Birthright. Of course I'm not talking about Rich Baker's Appendix N or the "real" birthright influences, but about everything birthright brings to mind fans.
    It should also be something more modern. Gygax wrote in the late 1970s, and books were the preferred medium for fantasy. now we also have music, films, tv series, comics, animes, webseries, real-life historical essays, whatever you want, as long as it is related to domains, conquers, ruling, highlander-ish-power-stealing duels ... you name it!

    I would start with what I consider "the obvious":
    • The birthright novels: obviously
    • That forgotten realms novel which is a birthright novel in disguise: obviously
    • The A Song of ice & fire saga / The Game Of Thrones series: born in the same year (?) of birthright, it is an excellent example of stories that intertwine with each other, and of fantasy where politics becomes almost more important than saving the world. And, of course, (spoilers! spoilers?) the idea that you can kill the good guys and still have the story going.

    As for my picks:
    • The Iliad (book): war, heroes soaked in the blood of the gods, military strategies out of this world, magic, but above all a lot of accounting, exactly like in Birthright!!
    • The Silmarillion (book): it is a story of gods, kings and peoples, seen from both points of view. It is interesting that there are more adv-ehrm more stories that keep time going, like a campaign that lasts centuries in game-time.
    • Highlander (movies/comics?): I confess that I added as a house rule the possibility of obtaining blood points even by decapitating the enemy. And I put Queen's "Princes of the universe" every time. Seriously, the idea that there are people with a supernatural force within them that can be stolen by killing them in a certain way is a central element of the game.
    • Vikings (tv series): Who would have said that Viking politics was capable of generating so many dramas? Between conquests, political marriages, invasions, sieges, and a story that spans multiple generations, there is the theme of the war for resources and the clash between different cultures.
    • ManOwaR / Blind guardian (music): To explain what epic metal has to do with Birthright the best way is probably this review, which I believe is the most hardcore, drunk and detailed Birthright review ever. For me they represent the idea of the importance of going in the middle of an armed confrontation between thousands of people, trying to get with all your limbs attached to your body to the guy with the crown, so you can take his head off and steal his divine power . Or die trying, "such is the price of power" said Baker in the adventure "family matters". The song "Battlefield" from Blind Guardian actually inspired most of my battles in the game.
    • The King (netflix movie): I think it's based on Shakespear's Henry V - I'm not enough of the Bard fan to say for sure. A nice story that shows the management of a domain from the king's point of view. Politics, intrigues, battles, but also the importance of managing a domain in financing a war.
    • Machiavelli's "The Prince" (book) should stand at Birthright as the "Dungeoneer's survival guide" stands for classic D&D.

    What do you think? What would you add? What would you remove? What makes you think "oh, that's just like Birthright" ?

  2. #2
    Site Moderator Sorontar's Avatar
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    Jul 2002
    Melbourne, Australia
    A few book series from me, that tend to have a political environment that gives the powers-that-be magical powers and abilities above the normal folk. The various states or worlds tend to be quite different as well.
    • The Keltiad series by Patricia Kennealy-Morrison - Arthurian and magic but in a science fiction environment
    • The Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley - Again, magic and mystical politics in a fantasy/science fiction mix
    • The Amber series by Roger Zelazny - Magic and shifting realities in a political fight for control of reality

    I am sure that the Dune series might also be suitable, but I only read the first couple of books, years ago.

    who fully supports the Silmarillion being included, though it might be a struggle for some to read due to Tolkien's writing style. It was described to me as the bible for Middle-Earth.
    Last edited by Sorontar; 07-10-2020 at 09:20 AM.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    Nov 2001
    southwest Ontario, Canada
    I had always thought (or at least kiddingly assumed) that George RR Martin had stolen ideas from Birthright. But you are correct that the first of the SOIAF books came out in 1996, just one year after Birthright (though Martin had started writing years before). Still there are a lot of parallels (the Iron Throne, broken empire, geopolitical intrigue and war, limited magic and monsters). So definitely a good source.

    I agree with Sorontar on The Silmarillion. A necessary inclusion, though i'd wager people get more inspiration from The Lord of the Rings.

    As for me... i've found much from sources that aren't overtly magical in nature- those that have a more realistic bent to them (perhaps because i like low-magic campaigns).

    The 13th Warrior, which was based on Crichton's novel Eaters of the Dead, which in turn was meant to be a realistic take on Beowulf. The Arab foreigner, helping the Norse fight an evil threat... always felt like a Khinasi in Rjurik to me. That premise alone fits well when you have a big diverse party.

    King Arthur with Clive Owen: a realistic take on the legend - leadership, nobility, sacrifice, etc.

    The series The Last Kingdom, about the Viking invasion of England and the history behind the formation of England. I've not seen it all yet but season 1 was great.

    To any of the above, you just need to add some minor fantastical elements, and they all fit into Birthright well.


  4. #4
    Senior Member Delazar's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Quote Originally Posted by Fizz View Post
    I had always thought (or at least kiddingly assumed) that George RR Martin had stolen ideas from Birthright. But you are correct that the first of the SOIAF books came out in 1996, just one year after Birthright (though Martin had started writing years before). Still there are a lot of parallels (the Iron Throne, broken empire, geopolitical intrigue and war, limited magic and monsters). So definitely a good source
    It always boggled my mind that Legends of the Hero Kings was written by (N)Ed Stark...

  5. #5
    Member nickgreyden's Avatar
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    Aug 2013
    Tennessee, USA
    While I, myself, read a lot, I instead decided to stick to mostly movies as they are much quicker ways to absorb material. My picks would be

    Novel(s) The Mallorean - The 2nd five book series by David Eddings. While best read through the lens of the first book, it isn't required. The books themselves have kings and political intrigue and economics to the side, but show enough to give a good idea how kingdoms may work when gods are living/breathing things in the world. And on that note.

    Novel(s) Belgarath the Sorcerer and Polgara the Sorceress - Both books are the capstones on the aforementioned 2 series', but also deal in the macro of kingdoms. Polgara spends some 500ish years meddling in the affairs of a war-torn trio of states.

    Move Good Morning Vietnam - A take away on a soldier's ability to navigate governmental bureaucracy while navigating his way professionally, emotionally, and socially in a world foreign to him.

    Movie(s) King Ralph, Princess Diaries 2 - Ok, so now you are in charge. But that comes at a price. You hold the keys to power, but you have to pay to keep those keys loyal. Sometimes it is holding up tradition. Sometimes it is pretending to be more than you are. Can you do that? For a darker spin on this, check out this video

    Move Kingdom of Heaven - Religions often clash as they via for power just as other political figures more common to us. Sometimes there is no difference. A great movie about muslims and christians fighting over Jerusalem.

    Movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - An oldie but a goodie. A dead senator is replaced by a boy scout (honest) and he has to navigate a political world of deception and cynicism he didn't even know existed.

    Movie Prince of Persia - The politics are fairly light, but an interesting take on adopted family members and how leadership and faith in loyalty is weighed.

    Movie Road House - An excellent movie from a Vos point of view. Instead of cleaning up a bar in a corrupt town, think of it as cleaning up a town in a corrupt province, or province in a domain, etc. A virtual "How to Win Friends and Influence People... with your fists"

    Movie/Novel The Count of Monte Cristo - A nobody was locked away only to escape and become a fake count intent to seek revenge on everyone who has wronged him. You know what, it is a great look for Birthright, but just do yourself a favor and watch the 2002 film adaptation because it is that badass and skips a bit of the boring book parts.

    Movie Trading Places - A black nobody was locked away at the machinations of old white people to run an experiment in fiances. After the scheme was found out, the now white disinfranced ex-worker and the streetwise black man work together to try to pull one over on the two old bosses. For Birthright, an excellent look at the machinations that can arise within and without guilds.

    However, it is important to note that campaign ideas can come from just about anywhere. For instance...

    Campaign Ideas

    Movie Limitless - While it is rare, it is possible to find yourself in possession of enough blood-power to awaken divine abilities. How does this change you? How do you go from being a farmer, to a divine will worker? Who do you have to deal with to get you on that stage and who among those will require favors once your station is found out?

    Movie The Book of Eli - Sure a lot of people like to have games in the cradle of Anuriean civilization, but what about Rjiurk games or the Vos where civilization has fallen or never really amounted to much. And someone there is a corrupted druid or shaman or warrior seeking the knowledge to make everyone pawns to him.

    Movie Dirty Dancing - What happens when an heir with a lot of divine blood falls for a commoner but daddy has higher hopes for moving up in the social strata by using their heir's bloodline? What happens when that commoner is from an enemy state, or a slave state?

    Movie Footloose - Religion A forbids a practice, but a foreigner who follows Religion B arrives to stir up the status quo, and, more importantly, the church. How high and how far do convictions run. What will be the tipping point as church and even the town elders rebel against this destructive influence... or do they find out it isn't destructive at all?

    Movie Galaxy Quest - Caught up in an ego trip that affords them luxuries and praise they didn't necessary earn (at least not to the extent that facts are to be believed, but bards are a hell of a thing), a group of naive outsiders kidnap the players to have them help in a political situation for which they are most definitely not qualified (unless you believe the bards). Help us Captain, YOOOUUU ARE OURR ONLLYYYY HOOOPPPPEEEE!

    Movie(s) Bad News Bears, Coach Carter, Gridiron Gang, Star Ship Troopers, Stripes, Heartbreak Ridge, et al - War is hell, and it is often unleashed unfairly on the poorest first. What happens when great leadership inspires the lowest of social classes to greatness. Levies become elite soldiers? What happens when the war is over? Is anyone... is everyone... Spartacus?

    Movie(s) The Last Samurai, Dances with Wolves, Avatar et al - Trapped behind enemy lines, someone finds out they may be fighting on the wrong side of the war. They go native. Is it a trusted friend to the players? A superior? An underling? Is it the players themselves?
    --Give me ambiguity or give me something else!--

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