Biblyon the Great

This zine is dedicated to articles about the fantasy role-playing game Gods & Monsters, and other random musings.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

Final Game Junky: The Spineless

Jerry Stratton, December 2, 2012

For a few years in the middle of the last decade (when the economy was doing better) I started haunting eBay, Noble Knight, and other sources of used role-playing games, filling out the adventures and other supplements I’d missed back in the eighties.

Over on the lower right are the Dragon Magazines I own that are not on the Dragon CD-ROM archive; the rest are in a box in the closet, except for three that have articles by me, and they’re somewhere in the front room, probably covered in dust since I don’t remember exactly where they are. To the right of the greater-than-250 Dragons are spiral-bound copies of the Neo-Anarchists Guide to Everything Else, the Shadowrun webzine I published before there was a web to speak of. I distributed it on Usenet and my FTP/Gopher site—the original Cerebus the Gopher. To the right of that are some old maps and notes from old campaigns—mostly, I think, ones I’ve played in rather than run.

To the left of the newer Dragons are all of the Dungeon magazines I own; there aren’t very many. For some reason I liked the adventures from Dragon better than the ones in Dungeon that succeeded them.

To the left of the Dungeon magazines is one of my real prizes. Back in college in Ithaca in the eighties, my friends and I walked into the local game store and I found a zip-loc bag with a photocopied black-and-white Creeks & Crawdads. It is by far the funniest game I’ve ever read, deliberately so. It made fun of most game fads up to the time it was printed, from Dungeons & Dragons to the post-apocalyptic games that were cropping up.

Then there are the AD&D first edition supplemental books, Unearthed Arcana (perhaps the biggest reason I thought second edition AD&D was a step in the right direction), the two survival guides, and Greyhawk Adventures. We never used Greyhawk; except for a brief love affair with the Realms toward the end of our college career we mostly just gamed in worlds made up for that game, with as little made up as possible. Unearthed Arcana was one of those things we used because it was official but we constantly made fun of. Except for UA I picked up all four of these books in the last couple of years.

And finally, the bottom shelf contains the remains of our Men & Supermen campaign from those years. The blue binder is the history of the game, the red binder contains NPCs, and the brown portable file organizer contains adventures, places, ideas, people, prisons, and other notes in alphabetical order, each in their own binder. I haven’t opened that box up in years and am afraid to now. The box itself has been through a fire and is partially melted—if you look closely at the latch, you can see it doesn’t quite fit any more. That’s due to the heat-induced warp on the back.

I keep the top shelf in alphabetical order because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to find anything—very few of them have readable spines. These are the adventures, mostly from TSR and Judges Guild, that I’ve acquired over the years. While I had quite a few TSR adventures back in the day, up until eBay the only Judges Guild book I owned was Castle Book II, and I don’t remember where I picked that up. Our Dungeon Master in high school used Judges Guild adventures, but I’d never even seen one until I started buying them in this century. They are a pretty amazing view into another era of gaming, one that just barely preceded my getting into the game. That said, some of them are very good. I recently used the Caverns of Thracia with very little reskinning, mostly just changing the names of things to match the game world.

Some of the best Judges Guild stuff came in their magazines. When they were hot, they were very hot, and had multiple magazines running at a time. They had three magazines overall: the Judges Guild Journal and the Dungeoneer ran concurrently for a while; originally the Journal was mostly for advertising Judges Guild product, but it grew into hints and then into a full magazine. After about two years they merged it with the Dungeoneer to become the Dungeoneers Journal. Finally, they renamed it to Pegasus. The Journal is a pain to collect—back when they were using it just to list their products, they didn’t identify which volume it was; as they started including notes in it, they used letters to identify the volumes, starting not with A but with I. But this was confusing not just to readers but to them as well: on issues N and Z they marked it as issues L and Y instead. They switched to numbers, starting with 18, after issue Z.

But, they had some great adventures, among my favorite being Merle Davenport’s The Fabled Garden of Merlin (I rename it The Magic Garden when I use it).

There’s also a bit of Chaosium Call of Cthulhu adventures here, a Role-Aids or two, and a few other odd outings. One of the prizes hidden in the spineless section is the golden parch-text edition of The Iron Wind. I have never used it, but I have read it several times. It is the only thing I’ve bought from the advertisements in Dragon other than the crappy dice that the Dragon warehouse dumped sometime around 1982. It’s completely unusable as a gaming supplement. It’s all spidery text, a map with no key, and confusing cross-references. But the cover was incredibly evocative, and the hints of adventure inside are almost like a novel.

The spineless section is the most difficult to keep useful. I can’t just glance over it and think, yes, the Glory Hole Dwarven Mine would be perfect for this mountain adventure; or, hey, I’d like to read The Tomb of the Lizard King again. I have to either pull them out to browse through them, or remember them.

Remembering has never been something I’ve been good at.

In response to Game Junky: The gaming shelf meme: James Maliszewski wants to see our junk.

  1. <- Game Junky Office