Sunday, March 11, 2012

every game product in The Elfish Gene

I don't exactly like Mark Barrowcliffe's The Eflish Gene.  It's a little too mean-spirited, a little too "I'm laughing at you not with you" for my tastes.  In fact I'm a bit confused as to who the author thinks his audience is.  It seems clear to me that D&D fans, present and past, are the most likely to buy this book, yet he addresses the reader as if they know nothing about the game.  Maybe if his depiction of life among teenage D&D nerds was less horribly bleak it could be the sort of thing you buy for someone who knows you play but doesn't maybe completely understand why.  As it stands I couldn't recommend this book for my wife or my parents or anybody like that.

Anyway, I thought it would be neat to list all the old gaming stuff that gets mentioned in passing in the pages of this weird memoir.

OD&D - mentions each book in the series by name at one point or another, from Men & Magic through all the Supplements
AD&D - dude consistently refers to the PHB as the Player's Manual.  Bugs me.
The Strategic Review - precursor to The Dragon
The Dragon
News from Bree - zine
Owl & Weasel - zine
Alarums & Excursions - APAzine, still going last time I checked
Underworld Oracle - zine
Illusionist's Vision - zine
The Book of Demons - published by Little Soldier Games, anybody got this one?
The Arduin Grimoire
White Dwarf
Empire of the Petal Throne - he's talks quite a bit about EPT
Tunnels & Trolls
Bunnies & Burrows
Chivalry & Sorcery
City State of the Invincible Overlord
Tomb of Horrors
Dungeon Geomorphs
Palace of the Vampire Queen
Dwarven Glory
En Garde!
Lankhmar - a boardgame version, I believe
War of the Star Slavers
Nomad Gods
Tegel Manor
Dungeon Tac Cards
Nightmare Maze of Jigresh - man, I hate the map in this EPT module
Citadel - a boardgame perhaps
White Bear Red Moon
The Emerald Tablet
Gamma World
Call of Cthulhu
Apple Lane
Snake Pipe Hollow
Glory of the North - possibly apocryphal, Barrowcliffe gives it as an example of the sort of grandiose title he wishes Runequest scenarios had, instead of the banal Apple Lane & Snake Pipe Hollow
The Snows of Ilmirth - same as Glory of the North


  1. Anonymous7:51 PM

    I formerly owned the Book of Demons - sold it on Ebay with a bunch of other nice Little Soldier books for about $60 apiece. They are interesting and definitely lesser-known early days documents. Bob Liddell I think. Digest size, crappy art, the whole glorious package. Most of the stuff I had like this was gone - just Arduin, the Spellcasters' Bible, and The Quest remain I think.

    - Calithena

    P.S. Your Arduin tables are breathtaking works of staggering genius. Yours and Hargrave's both, I guess.

  2. I've never had the chance to see Nightmare Maze of Jigrésh. What's wrong with its map?

    Personally, I like the title of Snake Pipe Hollow. And there were RQ adventures with names like The Snow King's Bride, so he doesn't have a leg to complain on. It's interesting, too, that the titles of published RQ adventures are generally either names of locations or else sort of fairy-tale style.

    1. I absolutely dig Snake Pipe Hollow (or is it Snakepipe Hollow? I think it's been spelt inconsistently), it sounds so eerie to my ears.

  3. Jigresh's map is a pointlessly huge maze that beats the fun out of a gaming session like a red-headed stepchild.

  4. Weird - I read Elfish Gene about 2 years ago and I don't remember nearly so many products being mentioned. Guess I'm getting old and my memory is going. :)

  5. Cool to see a list of all the products in this book - I remember when reading it thinking that the guy played a lot of old school games - many of which I'd never heard of.

    Also, I totally agree with you about the way he wrote the book. It comes across, to me, as though he's trying to cash in on how "geeks are now cool" and yet he seems to be somewhat embarrassed about some of the things he did back then. I'm all for self-deprecating humor, but it goers too far into the "Wasn't I stupid for playing these games" territory for me.

  6. Was Citadel not a reference to the miniatures company?

    1. I don't think so, as he mentions it had maps in a box.

    2. Anonymous3:37 PM

      There is Fantasy Games Unlimited game "Citadel" from 1976 (at Amazon here:

      "Citadel is a quest game based on a situation familiar in fantasy. The forces of evil have a talisman of some power and importance hidden in their stronghold, and the forces of good attempt to capture it. The game has three phases. In the first the forces of evil plan the stronghold and organize their forces to protect the talisman. In the second, the forces of good (heroes) attempt to locate the talisman. In the third, the heroes attempt to escape with the talisman. Includes cut-apart counters for hidden movement and 12 floorplans for use on the six floors of the tower."

    3. Yes, it's available on Drivethru for $4.50 at

      It's a really fun game where the good guys try to smash their way up a wizard's tower only to have their plans foiled by the nefarious plotting of the evil player. I remember seeing all my best heroes go down on the first couple of levels in one game. No box though - a booklet with card pull-outs.

  7. Alarums & Excursions is still going strong. I've got to get something written for #439 this month.

  8. Completely Tangential:

    I love your Flight of Dragons blog banner.
    : )

    1. Yes, it raised a smile with me too. I only saw it once, about twenty years ago, but I found it charming.

    2. Same here. I managed to tape it on our VCR when it was on TV, so my friends and I were able to watch it over and over again. My brother recently found me a copy on DVD. Great memories - I still catch myself quoting it every now and then...

  9. Sorry you didn't like the tone! I've noted before that the book doesn't seem all that negative to British readers, on the whole. Reviewers labelled it a memoir of 'a happy childhood' over here. I think our relentlessly negative culture which equates happiness with stupidity might be something to do with it!
    You are right to identify a couple of things, though. The book was written for a general audience but might have been better if it had been aimed more squarely at D&Ders. To this end I felt I had to overcome the reaction of many potential buyers that would be 'isn't that for spotty 14-year olds who could really do with a girlfriend'. For the record, I think I was too harsh on the game in chapter one. That chapter was written after all the others when the publisher requested something that would entice the general reader to give the book a go. The final chapter too, was harsh - but reflected exactly what happened. It didn't help that the DM of the game I went to bore a striking - almost uncanny - resemblance to Chigger, the bully I wrote about early in the book. If you remove the first and last chapters I think you have a basically very fond memoir of D&D. Sorry about calling the handbook a manual. That bugs me now too. I was writing almost entirely from memory so I guess I got that name confused. Thanks for the list of all the games. I don't myself have a problem with Snake Pipe Hollow. It was just that, as a 14 year old I had a problem with it.
    I've still got my Book of Demons - it fell out of a lot of stuff I was taking to the dump, spooky. Citadel was a reference to a game, not a company.
    I wasn't cashing in on anything. I was just writing an honest memoir of my youth. In the end, The Elfish Gene isn't about D&D at all. As I say in the book, the only way D&D was to blame for me spending my whole childhood locked in a room bitching at other boys was to provide an excuse to do so. We'd probably have been doing it around chess or computers, had they been invented. It's about growing up male and uncool as much as it is about D&D. Anyway, thanks for this impressive list. I'm amazed I came up with so much just off the top of my head. For the record, it turned out I hadn't abandoned fantasy and now write for Pyr and Gollancz under the pen name MD Lachlan. Yours Mark Barrowcliffe.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! The first and last sections are definitely the harshest in tone. It's a damn shame that wound up with such a dick for a DM in the last chapter, but I thought it was a little ingenuous of you when you claimed you had no idea why your career seemed like a threat. It seems totally obvious to me that a smallminded DM with grandiose visions and a terrible half-written fantasy novel on his harddrive would perceive you as a threat.

      It's also a damn shame because so many reasonably well-adjusted adults still enjoy the hobby. I wince anytime I read an encounter like that. One crap DM can ruin a vast pool of potential players.

    2. I'm very happy to be able to say thanks in person for writing such a great book Mark. I am sadly approaching the end of the audio book. And I concur that it isn't a book just about D&D. As someone who grew up at around the same time as you, in a similar environment, and from a similar background; the early years you describe resonate strongly with my memories and feeling of the time - and I didn't begin playing until I had left secondary school.

  10. Actually, that last encounter was a real culture shock for me. I had honestly never heard of an ebook so when he started asking me what software I used I was genuinely baffled. The encounter also stopped me exploring the game further and finding out that it has changed quite a lot from my day. We were all very narrow creatures back then and extremely immature. I've played a couple of times at cons since and found I had a great time. If the book ever earned a reprint I would take the chance to rewrite - in fact, I tried to for the US paperback edition but it was too expensive to do that.
    Anyway, thanks again for this list. I was trying to think of some games that I'd missed but I can't!