|For example, the Australian national anthem.|
|This is how we need to be to new RPG players.|
The origins of Wilderlands was a thought experiment about using The Hobbit as source material while ignoring the rest of the trilogy. As such, an Appendix N is both obvious and short. Just read The Hobbit, full stop.
What if the river floods beyond its banks, though? What other books evoke the feeling of the 1936 Hobbit?
The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany
This book is masterful proto-fantasy. Like The Hobbit, it takes place in vaguely defined fantasy realm (called Erl) and the protagonists go on an adventure far from the fields they know into realms of the fantastic. Most importantly, folklore feels real, as if elves and trolls are living real lives with real concerns under mountains and in the clouds. There is a shared understanding of the "rules" of the world based on a fairy tale/linguistic akashic record rattling around the brains of English speakers. These rules are not elaborated on, but the truth of them "feels real" to us when we're shown them. (Of course, the Elf King only has one final rune he can use to open the border of Elfland. That makes sense.)
Farmer Giles of Ham by J.R.R. Tolkien
Don't cry foul. Farmer Giles has nothing to do with Middle-earth. It is another book set in an anachronistic England with a ridiculous rustic protagonist and a dragon. In this respect, it dove tails nicely with The Hobbit. I can imagine that the county of Ham to be just over another set of mountains from the Wilderland. Plus, Caudimordax is a great template for what magic swords should be in the Wilderlands RPG.
The Sword in the Stone and Queen of Air and Darkness by T.H. White
In the same way that Middle-earth might be England in the ancient past, White's Grammarye might be Middle-earth in the transitory period between the ancient past and the present. Though more grounded in English toponyms with a more established canon of characters, the first two books of The Once and Future King share a tone with The Hobbit. The Forest Sauvage is a direct analog to Bilbo's Wilderland. There is an anachronistic and humorous tone.
The latter two books of White's masterpiece have a more adult, archaic, and formal tone. I've not included them for this reason. I've also not included other works of proto-fantasy--like The Worm Ouroboros or The Faerie Queene--for this reason.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander
If Tolkien wrote a fantasy book by imagining "What if all the characters and creatures from the Eddas were made of flesh and blood and still lingered in the Viking-haunts of an older England," Lloyd Alexander did the exact same thing with the Welsh mythological epics.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
Some of MacDonald's works (say, Phantastes) are dreamlike and, thus, not appropriate for inclusion on this list. The Princess and the Goblin is more rooted in modern causality. It is a fairy tale, pure and simple. MacDonald's goblins and Tolkien's goblins seem more-or-less the same beast: hard-headed, mean, mine-dwelling ne'er-do-wells.
I also like the descriptions of moving around in the total darkness of the mines. Good stuff.
Goddamn, Rat Queens rules. The friendship and interactions between the Rat Queens illustrates the core mechanic of inter-party relationships in HMtW. I want every adventure in HMtW to delve into each character's motivations, backstory, and interpersonal relationships in the same way that Rat Queens does.
The one-two punches (e.g., the Betty Climber) that the Rat Queens perform in combat are half the reason the combat system works the way it does, too. Aid each other in combat to get the BIG numbers.
By default, HMtW isn't pornographic--that would require a lot of buy-in, consent tools, etc. etc. It's not the sort of game I'm trying to run 99% of the time. It is however an "adult" game. Characters can buy into relationships with each other by electing the Lovers bond. Sex is a human need, and is represented in the game better--I hope--than the random harlot table.
House of Orr by Nolan T. Jones, Rilley Dutton, and Richard Zayas and artist Victoria Grace Elliott
A defunct and unfinished webcomic, it is currently super hard to find on the internet. (If anybody has a way to easily read it, please let me know.) As such, apologies for including it here.
That said, House of Orr genuinely shaped my thinking about "the party as a character." In the setting, political capital is held by adventuring guilds. A struggling guild, the titular House of Orr (who by tradition requires all members to take on a new name with the element "Orr"), hopes to establish itself as a political power. With its whimsical elements, House of Orr is genuinely delightful. It evokes the sense of playfulness that I want a game of HMtW to have.