Appendix N: Three Hearts And Three Lions

So I just finished reading Poul Anserson‘s Three Hearts and Three Lions, which has the unique distinction of being the first book listed in the (in)famous Appendix N of the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide. The book was clearly an influence on the good Mr. Gygax and company, though its prominent place in the alphabetized list is probably due to the author’s last name as much as anything else 🙂

The book itself is interesting enough, though I found myself somewhat disappointed with what seemed like a rushed ending right at the moment things were about to get truly epic. The characters are generally solid and there’s plenty of set pieces that feel rather like encounters in an RPG. Some of these are even handled with cleverness rather than steel (imagine that!).

As far as its influence on D&D goes, Three Hearts and Three Lions is likely the source for the whole Law vs. Chaos alignment thing*, big-nosed, regenerating trolls, several Paladin-y things, and perhaps a few other concepts.

I don’t know if I’d call it an absolute must read, but if you’re looking for some enjoyable heroic fantasy that draws on the Carolingian cycle and features what might be the earliest heavily-accented Dwarf (and some nasty human-hating elves, too) in our geeky literary history, then you could do much worse than giving Three Hearts and Three Lions a bit of your time.

*Of course, Moorcock’s works also focused heavily on this concept, and probably drew from Three Hearts as well. Anderson’s book does pre-date the melancholy albino’s first appearance by a few years, after all.

And it’s a much scarier troll than any D&D troll has ever felt like to me. Maybe that’s because we all know you just need to hit the damned things with fire. Man, I hate playing with people who break character to bust out their encyclopedic knowledge of the Monster Manual (and similar works), don’t you? I mean, can we have some effing immersion occasionally, please?

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0 thoughts on “Appendix N: Three Hearts And Three Lions

  1. Jack Colby

    I’m not so sure about the immersion thing. What do you expect people to do, play dumb and let their characters risk death when the players *know* how to kill the troll? It’s smart play to use what you know, after all, and the game can be brutal. If you don’t like that, I’d suggest changing your trolls and force players to re-learn and adapt rather than expecting them not to use what they know to try and survive in-game.

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Howdy, Jack! And welcome to Strange Stones. Glad to have you here, amigo!

      It’s a tough call, to be sure. And I don’t actually expect anyone to go that far when I’m GMing. I mean, I’d appreciate it, but I sure don’t expect it.

      What I’ve done at times when I was a player faced with a situation where I had meta-game knowledge on the first encounter with something (note, this is entirely about the first time a character encounters such a creature) is not act on that knowledge for a round or two, but ultimately have the character “figure it out” (as happened in Three Hearts, for example) before things get too dire. Sometimes I’ll do a voluntary INT check or something to determine when the AHA! moment happens. Of course, that’s my choice as a player and not one I’d ever even think of requiring anyone else follow.

      The main way I’ve countered the meta-game knowledge problem as a GM is exactly what you describe. I’ve introduced my fair share of new and variant monsters over the years. But sometimes, sometimes you just want to call the thing a troll and not a “Furlshug” or a “Grim Billig” or whatever name you come up with to throw the players off the scent 🙂

      And yes, you can call it a troll and not have fire work, or whatever, but then the players get a whiny and you have to kill them and take their stuff 🙂

  2. Goblinkin

    I’ve always been a big poul Anderson fan- he’s got some other great books as well.
    The broken sword is a Norse rip snorter of epic level. Another one about a modern us soldier transported to Viking Iceland is also good- but it’s title escapes me.

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      I’d never managed to read any Anderson prior to this, but I enjoyed his writing well enough that I imagine I’ll put The High Crusade and The Broken Sword on my list. But first I’m doing another short Lovecraft tour in advance of my two compilations of Clark Ashton Smith arriving in the mail. Yay weirdness!

  3. Goblinkin

    In regards to meta gaming- I guess it’s up to the group. Some will love the idea, others will think it pure stupidity.
    I personally love the idea. But I tend to play brawn over brain players, acting the clumsy/stupid but swashbuckling role to the hilt.
    No pun intended

    1. the venomous pao Post author

      Oh, even within the group of players I’ve gamed with over the last three decades (ulp!) the assessment of Cool vs. Stupid varies wildly. Some folks in this rag tag band are 100% immersion types who want to avoid all OOC chatter and speak with funny accents. Others are entirely about the game part of things and never speak in character unless forced to. We’re an odd lot – though I suppose all game groups are 🙂