Episode 1 – L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt’s “The Compleat Enchanter”

It’s time to pull the divan by the fire (or to turn on the lava lamp inside your wizard van), crack open an old paperback, and join us as we explore the fiction of the Appendix N….

Downloadable episode available here.

The Compleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt is a compilation of the first three novellas in the Harold Shea/Enchanter series, “The Roaring Trumpet” (1940), “The Mathematics of Magic” (1940), and “The Castle of Iron” (1941, revised 1950). The Compleat Enchanter was first published as a Nelson Doubleday/Science Fiction Book Club hardcover in 1975 before being released as a Del Rey paperback in 1976, featuring a charming Brothers Hildebrandt cover painting:


The three adventures in this book take place in the worlds of Norse Mythology, Edmund Spenser’s epic poem The Faerie Queene, and Ludovico Ariosto’s epic poem Orlando Furioso.

De Camp and Pratt would later team up for two more Harold Shea stories, “The Wall of Serpents” (1953), and “The Green Magician” (1954). These stories fall outside of the Appendix N Book Club reading list since they were not collected in paperback until 1979, but Gary Gygax and Tim Kask must have been big fans since “The Green Magician” made its first reappearance in print since 1960 in issues 15 and 16 of The Dragon (1978)!

In any case, the Harold Shea series undoubtedly left its mark on Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, most obviously in the magical spell component requirements in The Players Handbook and the Against the Giants series of modules.

Update 10/09/2017: Harold Shea was written up for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in Dragon magazine #59 (1982) by David “Zeb” Cook, the designer of the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set (1981). Oddly, Shea was written up as a 7th level fighter with special spell abilities as his spellcasting powers were too free-form for the very magic system he helped to inspire….

Reading Resources:

The Mathematics of Magic: The Enchanter Stories of de Camp and Pratt is a hardcover omnibus of the de Camp and Pratt Harold Shea stories, along with the solo stories written by de Camp after Pratt’s death.

Further Reading:

The Enchanter Reborn (Baen Books, 1992)

The Exotic Enchanter (Baen Books, 1995)

These anthologies from the 1990s feature de Camp’s solo Enchanter stories along with new contributions from other writers including former TSR game designer Tom Wham of Snit’s Revenge and The Awful Green Things from Outer Space fame.

Gaming Resources:

G1-3 Against the Giants (1e) (RPGNow affiliate link)

Players Handbook (1e) (RPGNow affiliate link)


If you are in Brooklyn and want to join the IRL book club, then come over here.

The list of books we will discuss are outlined within this link.

And finally, the in-print omnibus, anthology, and online resources are living over here.

3 thoughts on “Episode 1 – L. Sprague de Camp & Fletcher Pratt’s “The Compleat Enchanter””

  1. That was a very nice episode!
    To be honest, i dont remember if i have this book, but i sure had it in my hands once.
    The bad thing is that those books are very cheap, but shipping…oh boy!
    (to brazil, of course)

    Im about to finish the Conan episode, so i dont know if this will change: i would like to suggest a “sound effect”, a music of sorts, when you change do library to game, for exemple. Just a thought


  2. Well, I’m going to try to become a more active part of the “Appendix N Book Club.” I stumbled on this as I sought inspiration for D&D 5e game. This particular episode led me to discover the Harold Shea books. I LOVED the first one, and liked the rest.

    Some more context as to who I am as a listener. I can get obsessive over a podcast I start to love. Well, I’ve become obsessive about this one. I started by listening to a bunch of these, not concerned about whether I had read the book or not. Then I decided to “follow along.” I’ve started to make sure I’ve read the book before listening. I’ve joined the Patreon and increased my level. I’m thinking I may want to be a part of the Patron book clubs. And now I’m writing this on a day that I know I’ll be listening to the Tanar of Pellucidar (52) episode on the way home and I read a chunk of The Case of Charles Dexter Ward during my lunch. This has been a great journey. I hope I’ll catch up some day, but don’t care that much if I do.

    If you’re just stumbling on this podcast – it’s amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: