Monday, May 31, 2010

Lost gaming treasure!

I was searching through an old box yesterday that I haven't looked through in at least six or seven years and I found these:

Miniature AD&D rulebooks!

I bought them at a game store in San Angelo, Texas back in 2000 when they first came out. They quickly vanished from the market and are bigtime collectables now. They're unabridged and perfectly readable. Ideal for gaming on the go without a backpack full of heavy hardcovers.

Altogether, I have:

Dungeon Master's Guide
Player's Handbook
Oriental Adventures
Legends & Lore
Manual of the Planes

I completely forgot I had them and assumed that I sold them at some point. Nope!

Now I just need a mini Monster Manual...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Why the thief?

Internet blogs, website message boards, and FRPG fanzines have all been buzzing with some fairly harsh criticism of this venerable class.

The thief, it is said, is simply a bad fit with the rest of the game. Critics claim that making activities like picking pockets and hiding in shadows dedicated thief class abilities creates awkward situations where fighting men, clerics, and magic-users are de facto prohibited (or at least strongly discouraged) from attempting to perform the same feats. My first submission to Fight On!, "The Thief Skill As Saving Throw", was an effort to address just this mechanical dilemma.

That aside, the arguments of the anti-thief camp are quite compelling. It’s the proposed solutions that leave me cold. The most common prescription is either radical re-design of the entire class from the ground up or elimination of the thief class altogether.

What’s the problem with these options?

Well, you see, I like the standard thief. Lots of us do. This is because the class as written presents a unique challenge. A fighter that fails to sneak past an orc sentry can fall back on his considerable martial prowess to save his bacon. The magic-user has even more options due to his repertoire of spells, from the subtle (Charm the orc) to the simplistic (blast him with Magic Missiles). The potent cleric can draw on both brute force and arcane might!

The thief has no fallback options. He gets by with his wits and larcenous expertise or not at all. This unique approach (and challenge, as the thief is arguably the most difficult class to find success with) makes the thief a favorite of many, and it's precisely what I think a lot of the class' critics fail to appreciate. I, for one, am at a loss to explain how eliminating this singular way of confronting (A)D&D's many challenges could possibly benefit the game.


Monday, May 3, 2010

The gold standard in demons and devils.

Wikipedia sez:

"The Dictionnaire Infernal (English: Infernal Dictionary) is a book on demonology, organized in hellish hierarchies. It was written by Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy and first published in 1818. There were several editions of the book, but perhaps the most famous is the edition of 1863, in which sixty-nine illustrations were added to the book. These illustrations are drawings which try to depict the descriptions of the appearance of several demons."

I first came across many of these awesome illustrations in the Time Life coffee table book Wizards and Witches, part of their Enchanted World series released in the 1980s. This was the heyday of paid tv advertising, and Time Life was famous for "get the first book in our new twenty part series free"-type offers. As a kid, I would always stay up late watching tv. Johnny Carson, original Star Trek reruns, Night Flight, and cheesy-sleazy horror and kung-fu movies were all favorites. During the commercial breaks, I'd be busy ordering whatever free crap I could. Including, at one time, a copy of the Book of Mormon. Hell, free is free!

Today, I found out that the Dictionnaire Infernal illustrations and English text are available online in PDF form here (very small download, about 2.8 MB).

If you've never experienced these, now is the time. These images and words will always be what comes immediately and vividly to my mind when the subject is demons or devils and if they can't inspire some epic old-school fantasy gaming encounters, I don't know what can.