Reference Books Part 1

Hello everyone!  Apologies for the late post, but I had more to do today than I thought.  If you follow me on twitter you know that I nearly forgot I still had prep work to do for tomorrow’s Untamed Dice episode.  Something I try to have done well ahead of the day before upload!  Sometimes you have to write a paper about cosmic indifference in science fiction, but that is beside the point.  Today I have something I have actually been meaning to include in this series for a long time.  From the beginning, in fact.  Reference books.  Some of you may remember something called a library where all the research for school papers was done.  Those of you who do probably also remember the reference section, that oh so useful but locked down portion.  That’s only kind-of what I mean.  Today I want to share with you three books I have on my shelf that qualify as reference books, books that consider or go over a specific topic in detail.  These are much more frequent than you would think, and in these posts I will include everything from encyclopedias and compilations to visual collections and field guides.  For part one let’s go with some basic mythology and symbolism.

100 Characters From Classical Mythology (Malcolm Day)

I have a dozen or so books of varying sizes about mythology on my shelf, but this is one of the better “shelf starters”.  What do I mean by that?  It is smaller (and therefore cheaper) and covers a smaller range of topics.  In this case Greek and Roman mythology.  That may seem a limited scope as far as mythology goes, but that isn’t a bad thing.  First of all these two mythologies are both quite similar, though there are lots of differences and those differences go beyond the names of the gods.  Roman mythology developed out of Greek mythology, but with eyes and minds shaped by different times and historical events (9 Hells they conquered them).  Some believes differed and mythology grows and changes when it lasts that long.  This book can help parse out things, and give you a good example of how such things can progress in your game or vary from land to land.  All in all, this book provides a fantastic framework for developing a pantheon and examples of the variety of things a god of war (for example) can represent.  If nothing else, it is also a must-have source for anyone playing a game that actually takes place in or uses ancient Greece or Rome as a basis.

The Dictionary of Mythology (J.A. Coleman)

This is a much more recent addition to my shelf, having noticed it for half price at Barnes & Nobel one day.  The reason this is such an excellent book is because it does much to keep itself limited.  As the title suggests, it is a dictionary.  Laid out like an average dictionary mythological names and figures are placed in alphabetical order along with everyday items associated with myths.  While it does not go into the detail that an encyclopedic reference does, this book has a lot to offer.  Especially as a quick access guide.  First of all, if there is some mythological creature, god, or place that you can place or don’t know this is the place to look it up.  Second, and maybe more importantly, you can reference the variety of meaning in everyday objects.  Knowing the ways different religions have viewed the importance of, say, snakes can help you as a DM.  Knowing the common themes around certain animals throughout religions is also fantastic.  If you want to flavor a people, religion, or setting or if you just want to get a better idea of playing out such topics, grab this book!

The Illustrated Signs & Symbols Sourcebook (Adele Nozedar)

This is an amazing resource, similar in use to the last one.  However this goes into more of the symbolism of different things.  Animals, plants, numbers, and symbols all feature in this book.  What the meaning is behind them, how to present them, and how different presentations change meaning.  Because of its more limited scope, this source also has more information than the dictionary does, and can cover a topic a couple different times if it qualifies as different types of symbols.  This book is absolutely essential to anyone looking to develop their own pantheon.  In it you can find inspiration and meaning to link to gods of any type and get help developing their holy symbols.