Friday, June 3, 2011
Look Back: The Book of Marvelous Magic
This book evokes deep nostalgia for me. Even though in 1984 I was in a frame of mind that considered AD&D to be the "real D&D", and anything for basic to be "for the kids".
When this came out I considered Clyde Caldwell to be TSR's "best" artist (my opinion has since changed considerably) so I thought this cover was grand. So when I saw this at the game store I snatched it up using my meager allowance money, brought it home and eagerly read through it. Looking at it now, over 25 years later I consider the cover art to be perfectly serviceable, but certainly not the greatest art on a D&D product.
It is notable that this book is the last thing Gygax wrote that could remotely be considered "original D&D" material. Not AD&D.
The variety of magic items within seemed inspired and eminently useful. I immediately put them to use in my D&D games (oh, the days when I had so much free time to play!) and I vaguely recall having considerable success in using this book. Really, it was one of EGG's better efforts.
Looking through it now I wonder how much of it EGG wrote, and how much of it is Frank Mentzer's. I see little evidence of EGG's distinctive prose, in fact it is mostly quite dry. What I suspect is that EGG wrote a bunch of ideas for magic items and Frank was left with the job of detailing them out.
Skimming through it now I still love this book. It is chock full of great (and some not so great) ideas, but many, many of the magic items are very useful regardless of what system you are using. For example I like that so many of the items are not just your typical wand, boots, or other mundane item. Such interesting things as Figureheads, Hammocks, Kites, Soap, and Spinning Wheels make their appearance here. It reminds me of how staggering Gygax's imagination really was.
I think I want to start using this accessory again, it's been a long time.