If the fantasy roleplaying gamer on your list has more Monster Manuals than you can shake a d20 at, you might be tempted to just give them a gift card and scratch them off your list. But not so fast! There are still a few options you may not have considered.
REVEL IN THE GLORY OF MISSPENT YOUTH
The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange by British journalist Mark Barrowcliffe is the memoir of one of the first boys to fall under the spell of Dungeons & Dragons back when it was new and mysterious.
Often brutal and always honest, the book is more about the players than the game, a study in how relationships can change and die — and how it’s not always a bad thing.
Young Mark’s friends will be familiar to anyone who’s been part of any clique of shared obsessions. In his case, as he puts it, it was either D&D or sniffing glue. No virgins were sacrificed — just many, many hours which could have been spent pursuing the opposite sex.
The handsome hardcover will not look out of place on a D&D collector’s shelf of rulebooks — it’s wrapped in a dust jacket that mimics the character record sheets of old, filled in with esoteric details, sketches and statistics and yellowed perfectly as if the sheet had been soaked in tea and dried before it was filled out to make it look like parchment. Not that I know anyone who’s ever done that…
Game Night is a novel by British humorist Jonny Nexus about six gods whose roleplaying game is played out in a second narrative depicting the lives of mere mortals under their power. And for $10, it’s a steal.
From the publisher: “The gods don’t play dice with the universe… unless it’s game night.
A twelve-thousand-year quest is about to be completed, prophecies will be fulfilled, ancient riddles answered, legendary evils bested, and the nature of the universe revealed. All that’s needed is a band of mighty heroes to do the completing.
Unfortunately for the locals, some of the gods have taken a personal interest in the chronicle of these heroes’ adventures. Now they are each guiding one of the characters towards the conclusion of their epic journey. That is, when they’re not squabbling, backstabbing each other, blowing things up by accident, refusing to play by the rules, and turning the AllFather’s creation into a mess of petty arguments, fantasy cliché, gratuitous combat and unnecessary dice rolls.
If you thought your games group couldn’t be any worse, Game Night shows just how bad things can get when a bunch of unruly deities decide they want to play. And may the heavens help us all.”
ADVENTURES & ACCESSORIZING
A few months back I saw an interesting title at the library and gave it a thumb-through; I was hooked. Confessions of a Part Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons and Dragons Game by Shelly Mazzanoble is the true first-person tale of an RPG industry insider (the author works in marketing for Wizards of the Coast) who at first knew nothing about RPGs.
“A smart, humorous examination of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game from a female gamer’s point of view. The book delves into the myths and realities of gamer stereotypes. It explains how to build a character for a D&D game, how to shop for gear, how to play, and how to find the perfect gaming group, all the while exploring the things that make the D&D game a rewarding and recurring social experience for both men and women.”
THE LATEST TOYS
The new fourth edition of D&D has streamlined the venerable tabletop roleplaying game’s labyrinthine rules, making it easier for former players who have “grown up” and now have jobs and families to get their old buddies together once in a while to slay a dragon or two. The three core rulebooks — the Player’s Handbook, Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide — are also available separately, and the gift set presents no greater value — aside from the handsome slipcase, that is. Also, new for the holidays are deluxe editions of each book, sold separately for $75 apiece, with foil covers and recently updated corrections to the new rules — a nice, if pricey, surprise under the tree indeed.
Along with the new edition comes D&D Insider, a subscription-based online service that includes a rules database, character builder and visualizer and the digital evolution of the old Dragon and Dungeon magazines. The cost is $4.95 per month at a 12-month rate, $6.65 per month for three months and $7.95 on a month-by-month basis.
Incidentally, the character builder just went public in an open beta. For free, users can download the tool and create, print and advance characters up to Level 3.
Progress be damned! Now is the time to buy up old D&D books on the cheap. Many gamers or former gamers have jettisoned much or all of their collection over the years. Give the gift of nostalgia and confront them with a piece of their geeky past! Bookmans (locations in Mesa, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tucson) and Half Price Books (Mesa and Paradise Valley) always have an impressive selection of old D&D books — especially now with the change in editions — and they carry dozens of other RPGs as well.