In Columbus Ohio, where I live, we have a few local gaming stores and for various reasons I have given up on all of them. The reasons range from bad service, to disgusting and smelly stores, to false advertising, and fraud. It’s odd but price was never a reason, even though now that I don’t use them I get all my books much cheaper. I use Amazon for some things, but not as much as one might imagine.
Mostly I use the five Half Price books stores in the area. Half Price Books is a chain of used book stores where most of their items are half price. It is not a place to get the newest hot release in gaming, but a great source for older material, and not all of it is used. Each store has a good sized gaming section and one never knows what they will find there. I have gotten some amazing deals there for which Jeff, the owner of Iron Tavern, constantly gets mad at me for because he never seems to find the same deals I do. Sadly, none of the items I picked up were awesome deals. Each was under $10, but there is still the chance I over paid for them.
The first item I picked up was Role Aids Demons box set by Mayfair Games. It was published in 1992 or 1993 – the box has one copyright on it and the book has another. Either way it puts it in the days of second edition D&D when the names of monsters like Demons and Devils were replaced. It makes me wonder if this was written as a direct response to that.
It has some cool ideas, the best dealing with the classic making deals with the devil kind of things. In here the demons have an agreement with the gods on how they may interact with mortals. The best thing about the book is a 64 page player handout of an ancient book on Demon lore to help the players handle and deal with Demons.
The book has some hit and miss classes, spells, and magic items that seem creative but difficult to tell rules wise how they fair. I would just translate everything from here into a different gaming system. Another cool idea they have is a small table that gives examples of Demonic presence. It has suggestions on how people behave if they have made a deal, how the environment reacts to these other worldly figures, and in general it is a cool starting point to add some awesome flavor into the campaign. If I ever run a fantasy campaign again this is defiantly a resource I would like to make use of.
Another item I bought is the 1981 box set Bushido by Fantasy Games Unlimited. It is the third company to make the game in three years and I have no idea what, if any changes were made. It is credited with being the first RPG to focus on the Orient. It is a complex mess especially by today’s standards. I’m sure I would have loved it if I had the game thirty years ago, but not sure after seeing it now. While there are some really cool details and setting information, it seems like there is not much that can easily be pulled from to use elsewhere. It certainly is not a game I would want to try to learn to play. It will make a nice conversation piece next to Space Opera which is what the game reminded me of most because of the dense text and complex game mechanics. I was able to get the box set cheaper then what the PDF sells for, so there is that.
The last book I purchased is Chill RPG by Mayfair games from 1990. As horror RPGs go it is not too bad. I also don’t think it does a lot to separate itself. Even after reading it I’m not sure what makes a Chill game a Chill game. One thing the book does well is it comes with a small introductory pamphlet. This sums up the game very well and is easy to copy to hand out to players. It has a decent GM section for running horror games and offers some interesting and different takes on monsters and presents some that I have not seen elsewhere. I think it can offer some good inspiration but just does not stand up with other horror games these days.
Even though these are older out of print books that have seen their best days go by it doesn’t mean they are totally worthless. I pick up old books and games for inspiration for my new games. Sometimes it is fun to read them and see how things were done twenty and thirty years ago. I was gaming at the time but for whatever reason these books and box sets where completely unknown to me at the time. That is one of the reasons I like hunting for things at the local used book stores because I never know what I am going to find.
Chris Gath. I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then. In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6. My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game. On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out. I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times. Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.