About two or three years ago, I came back home after a long day of gaming and my supremely better half proudly announced that she'd stumbled upon a treasure trove of old D&D stuff at the flea market. To her additional credit, she didn't just follow this with an "Ultimate Geek Tease" by telling me: "W-e-l-l-l-l, I wasn't sure if you were still into it so I just left it there" or "It wasn't in perfect shape so I just kept walking" or "I couldn't remember if it was Dungeons & Dragons you liked or some other game. Oh well, it'll probably still be there next Sunday!" Nope, she just handed all this phat lootz over to me and said: "Here ya go, ya crazy kid! Enjoy!"
Here's an inventory of what she picked up that day:
Dungeon Module B1: "In Search of the Unknown"(1979)
Mike Carr's introductory module, included in the fourth printing of the John Eric Holmes Dungeons & Dragons boxed set. It includes a split-level maze: the upper half being an architecturally creative standard dungeon and the lower half a fairly labyrinthine cave complex. The module also features a few amusing d20 random tables ( like a "True or False" rumor generator and a creative answer to that immortal question "WHAT'S IN THE JAR?") and some kooky pre-gen NPC hirelings with names like "Presto the Elven Magic-User" (!) and "Kracky the Hooded One" (!!!).
Dungeon Module T1: The Village of Hommlet (1979)
This AD&D classic of Gygaxian verbosity, weirdness and Rain Man-attention to detail is in pretty rough shape. Nevertheless, all of the gloriously detailed maps (featuring the village and it's environs, the Ruins of Moathouse, the Inn of the Welcome Wench and the dungeon underneath) appear to be present and accounted for. With it's previously-unseen-to-me Trampier art and decidedly wacky NPC's, this relic makes me wanna bust out an olde skool session like nobody's bidness.
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook (1980)
I was delighted to finally get my hands on the Tom Moldvay-edited Basic rulebook, which predates my involvement with D&D by about three years. I can easily see how his concise and clear presentation really helped bring Dungeon & Dragons to the masses. The rules are easy to comprehend and the layout is well-organized. I especially dig reading the "Sample Dungeon Expedition" transcript and the extended example of combat, which includes the deathless line: "It's okay, Gary sent us!"
Dungeon Module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands (1980)
Whereas the Basic Manual was clearly well-used, the accompanying module is in near-mint condition. Notwithstanding the laughably inept cover art, there's a lot of goodness lurking inside. Between the titular Keep, the surrounding wilderness and the Caves of Chaos, it's sandbox-y enough to keep new players amused for several sessions.
Dungeon Module B3: Palace of the Silver Princess (1980)
Dungeon Module X1: The Isle of Dread (1980)
I sure wish the Dave-Cook-edited Expert Set was included in the haul, but, hey, you can't look a gift catoblepas in the maw. I'm actually quite familiar with this module since a re-packaged version was included in the Mentzer Expert set, but it's still kinda cool having this "Mirror Universe" incarnation. I never really ran published adventures when I played as a kid, but I kinda always wish that I'd gotten a party of players out to the Isle. This one's packed to the gills with fantastic maps, including a real beauty depicting the default campaign's south sea region:
As much as I enjoyed dungeon crawls and wilderness adventures, I positively loved ocean adventures in D&D. I guess that's why my first novel is positively rife with maritime references. The Expert Set was great since it contained simple yet elegant rules for ships, sea-travel, weather and encounters. I guess that's why I'll always love those blue books the most. *Sigh*
TSR Hobbies Inc "Gateway To Adventure" Catalog (1981)
Wow, talk about your time capsules! David Sutherland's Satan-licious Dungeon Master's Guide and Trapper-Keeper doodle-riffic Monster Manual are featured inside, as is Trampier's iconic Player's Handbook. The Top Secret, Boot Hill and Gamma World boxed sets are all present and accounted for. The best part: the stills depicting Dungeon!, Warlocks & Warriors, Snit's Revenge! and 4'th Dimension prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that TSR's graphic designers back then had all the taste of a cardboard Popsicle.
Player's Manual and Dungeon Master's Rulebook (1983)
I've already written extensively about my unabashed love for these books so I won't indulge in any tired re-hashery, but holding them in my hands really brings back memories. Now that I've read Moldvay's version, though, Mentzer's prose seems kinda simple-minded in comparison. "This is a game that is fun. It helps you imagine" seems like a comedown from "individuals play the role of characters in a fantasy world where magic is real and heroes venture out on dangerous quests in search of fame and fortune".
But still, this was my gateway drug. And besides, that Elmore cover painting is absolutely bad-ass.
Players Companion: Book One & Dungeon Masters Companion: Book Two (1984)
Although not nearly as world-altering as the Expert set which proceeded it, there were a few things in the Companion rules that we were quick to adopt. The new weapons (bastard sword, blowgun, bola, heavy crossbow, blackjack, net, trident and whip) and new armor (scale and banded mail) provided some welcome combat variety. Druids were introduced as an alterna-Cleric. Players could now participate in jousting tournaments, archery contests and field lists.
But these little table scraps just served to whet our appetites for AD&D, which we happily graduated to a few months later. Although we didn't level through the Basic Companion rules, I continued to spot-weld several resources from this set onto my campaign. The Striking and Wrestling options were intriguing, so I used them whenever required. The War Machine mass combat rules proved to be indispensable when I needed an appropriately epic climax to a major story arc. And as a rabid reader of Conan the King, running a Dominion became an attractive alternative.
Combat Shield and Mini-Adventure (1984)
This is an intriguing little relic. In addition to assembling all the required charts on an otherwise nondescript hunk of cardboard, there's an interesting mini adventure by David Cook included called "The Treasure of the Hideous One". As it turns out, the title has less to do with Jocelyn Wildenstein's jewelry collection and more to do with four amazing artifacts guarded by a suave undead motherfucker. Hmmmmm...
I'll try and review these individually (and in more detail) down the road. If anyone out there in the blogosphere wants me to put priority on something, let me know and I'll endeavor to oblige.
Happy gaming and remember: try and find yourself a better half that lives up to that cliche!