Friday, September 14, 2007

my new gaming grail

Okay, I had to choose between bidding on a pile of cool Judges Guild stuff or upping my bid, so I can quit being coy and tell you all about my latest wild goose chase for crazy gaming goodness. It was over at the Acaeum's message boards that I found a feller who declared Exotic Characters and Worlds to be the "dumbest" book he owns. ECW (as I will insist on calling it forever just to screw with the wrestling fans reading this) is a softcover, 166 page volume published In the Year of Our Fnord Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Three. The author is one Teddy C. Ryan III. I love that. Most other dudes called 'the Third' I've encountered would either drop the III or use their full name, Theodoric Cobblepott Ryan III or whatever. That mixing of the casual 'Teddy' with the grandiose roman numeral is just charming. Anyway, here is the cover:

I got that image from Tome of Treasures, a gaming collectibles site that I didn't know existed until I started investigating this book. It appears to be an encyclopedia of games that is built using some standard bulletin board software. I'm totally checking the rest of the site out when I get some free time to do so.

The banner over the upper right corner of the front cover indicates that this book is "Suitable for use with" AD&D, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers. One of Afterglow's informants describes the book this way:

...a bizarre mix of AD&D and Traveller, with a little Gamma World thrown into the mix. The first 75 pages are a Player's Handbook rewrite/supplement - character generation rules, new races, new classes, revised combat tables, and a new spell list (going up to Level 20). The rest of the book is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi/fantasy campaign setting, featuring Traveller-like sector maps and star-system generation rules, some alien races, and some miscellaneous rules (like mass combat and herbalism).
As I read it, the author put everything that was awesome about late 70s/early 80s gaming into a blender and this book came out.

Another Acaeum poster, who uses the handle Contrarian, has been hating on this game since he inadvertedly bought a copy at auction in the early 90's:
I'm in college in the early 1990s, trying to pick up some Gamma World modules at a local con in Toledo. Some bozo keeps bidding them up to more than they're worth, and I'm getting annoyed. Finally, the auctioneer brings this book (and its supplement!) to the podium, mentioning that the cover says it's compatible with Gamma World. I've never heard of the thing, and I have no idea what it's worth, so somehow I decide that means I can bid as high as I need to. And that's how I end up owning a beat-up copy of the Worst Roleplaying Supplement Ever. It has a "Waverider" character class that specializes in surfing!
Dude might hate the game, but how can I resist a fantasy/sci-fi/post-apoc game with a surfer class? Turns out that back in Usenet days this Contrarian guy wrote a much more indepth review of the game. It's too long to quote here, but please do yourself a favor and go read it now. Man, it sure looks like this book brings all the crazy-go-nuts awesome of World of Synnibarr in a third of the pages! Even as I type this post up I'm slowly talking myself into hitting the eBay again to bid up the one copy I can find for sale on the internets right now.

Anyway, Teddy 3's game company put out at least two more books. Monsters, Aliens, and Fantastic Beings and Dragons throughout the Multiverse are critter books. I don't have any info on the dragon book, but Afterglow calls the other one 'a fairly conventional knockoff of the Monster Manual, although a few monsters reference Gamma World-ish radiation rules. A considerable number of monsters are inspired by movies or television, i.e. "Alien", "Planet of the Apes" and others.'

The back pages of these three books advertise other products from Gamemaster Guides, Teddy's outfit. For the most part these items are blank record sheets for characters, starships, planets, etc. A setting product gets a mention, though. The Barbarians Enflands could be a potential source of craziness, but at first glance it's not much:

Completely detailed TOPOGRAPHIC CAMPAIGN MAPS [(4) 11" x 17"] with Information Sheets covering Cities, Governments, Ruins, and Relics. Also Includes the INTRODUCTORY MODULE The Gates of Gorgoroth.

And no, I didn't misspell the name. It really is 'Enflands'.

Finally, Mr. the Third released a product in 1985, apparently the last item from Gamemaster Guides. Called Heaven & Hell, Tome of Treasure poster tfm describes it as "Grounded in Christian mythology and literature, this book presents maps and descriptions for the ten levels of Heaven and the eleven levels of Hell, as well as stats in AD&D format for the denizens of both realms."

Which makes the note at the end of Contrarian's Acaeum post all the more interesting:

Scariest part of the story? A couple of years back, I decide to search Google for the author of this book to see if he's still in the hobby. The only mention I find is a reference to his (thankfully defunct) science-fiction erotica website, where he was apparently photo-shopping pictures of women to look like aliens.

So that's what happens to failed game designers: They go into sci-fi porn.

Up-and-coming game authors take note! This could be your fate! At least now I know where they get all those guys who Photoshop supermodels to turn their skin Orion Slave Girl green. Frustrated game designers of the world, I salute you.