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AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (Basic/1e) $4.99
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AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (Basic/1e)
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AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (Basic/1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/05/2016 09:41:23

"The D&D and AD&D games are actually different games." p.74, The Book of Marvelous Magic. This was not the first time I had read this, and by 1985 I had moved away from the D&D game to AD&D, it was still interesting to read this. Back then we freely mixed the two systems without so much as a care.
So it was with some confusion then that when I picked up AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic that is proudly stated it was for the D&D AND AD&D games. This was only emphasized more with the very first magic item listed, the Alternate World Gate. AD&D was treated on the same level as Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and Boot Hill.

Confusion of compatibility issues aside, The Book of Marvelous Magic became one of my favorite and most frustrating D&D accessories. Favorite because at this time I was serious into working on my witch class for AD&D/D&D and I was looking for guidelines on how magic items should be created. I didn't find that here, but I did find a lot of inspiration. Also, there were a lot of magic items in this book that later would become rather important in my own games for the next 2-3 years. Frustrating because I never could get my gaming groups to embrace this book like I did. I think it something to do with the punny names of the some of the items. I now know that this was just something that was going on at the TSR offices back then (see I6 Ravenloft), but it made it difficult to take the book seriously at times.

The authors are listed as Frank Mentzer with Gary Gygax, but I think we all knew at the time that Mentzer did the lions-share of work on this. The book covers the same span of characters (and same span of publication) of the Mentzer penned Basic, Expert and Companion Rules. Living in my small town in Illinois I think this might have been the first reference I saw to the Companion ruleset. Reading this book I am thinking that the Companion rules had just been written and the Master Rules had not. There are no references to the Master Rules and in places, the rules seem to put 36 at the top of the character achievement and in others, it was 26.

So what does this book have? Well, there are over 500 new (at the time) magic items spanning 76 pages of text. The cover art is from none other than Clyde "I'll have the thigh" Caldwell and really grabbed my attention. Not like that (though I was 15 at the time) but because she looked like a bad ass witch.

The magic items are divided by type, so for example under Armband there are five listed magical Armbands. When a magic item needs to be listed, such a Bag of Holding, it is listed with a "see D&D Basic Set".

The book did raise the question in our groups of who was creating all these magic items? That was never fully answered here or really anywhere for a couple more decades. We opted that most of these were in fact fairly unique items. So there were not a lot of "Buttons of Blasting" out there, but maybe one or two at best.

There are a few magic items here that I still have not seen in other (future) versions of D&D, so it is worth it just for those. It is also a great insight to the mid 80s D&D, a time when TSR was on top of the world, right before the big shakeup. Also at the time I enjoyed tthis book, but largely ignored Mentzer's magnum-opus BEMCI D&D. Reviewing both now as an adult I see I did all these books a large disservice.

What is in these books that gamers of today can use? Well in truth, LOTS. Really. The book might as well say "Compatible with 5th Edition D&D" on the cover. Hell. Change the trade dress and you could almost republish it as is with little editing. Yeah remove references to Basic, Expert and Companion. Change some of the spell casting descriptions, but otherwise this is still a gem today as it was 30 years ago.

Time to re-introduce the Collar of Stiffness to my games!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic (Basic/1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Jason M. I. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/28/2007 00:00:00

Well, this book really should have been called: The Book of Marvellous Magic Items. I was looking for such a book and almost went past it until I read the description of the product.

Overall I really liked the product, which delivered exactly on the promise from the product description. A myriad of functional news to introduce into play. So I'm happy with the purchase.

The book is a dictionary format from A-Z with some 500 new item variations fully described (e.g. various types of armbands). Every item from the Basic, Expert and Companion boxed sets are also listed, but without an actual description (it assumes you have those books to reference). Plus there are good random tables that encompass all items.

While the dictionary format is functional, I actually would have preferred it indexed by the random tables -- which are based on item category. More like the core books. Makes it harder to browse related items (like music/movie stores that do not categorize their items by type).

What's weird is that as a dictionary, it includes descriptions of the mundane items. For example, "Tent: A tent is a portable shelter made of canvas or animal skins. In portable form, a tent appears to be a roll of fabric, and may be mistaken for a rug. The tent may be unfolded and erected for use by supporting it with poles and ropes. Etc". No issue with the description, but was that really necessary? In other words, a lot of the product is filled up with dictionary definitions of the items instead of just a listing of its magical properties.

It does include an AD&D conversion section at the back, but it states that "Since the AD&D game is more complex than the D&D game, it is very difficult to modify properly". Uh, no. You should have no problem using these items in the AD&D setting as is (which I'm doing).

Speaking of AD&D, I had also downloaded the AD&D product "Book of Artifacts". That product is largely useless in ordinary game play, with its items unsuitable for players. However, in this product all the items are useable in play (although some have a humorous bent). It greatly expands the random tables that are staples with D&D or AD&D, adding nice variation and cool items.

Item types and examples:

Amusements (e.g. Kite) Animal (e.g. Horseshoes of flying) Apparel (e.g. Gauntlets) Cloth (e.g. Blanket of Protection) Containers (e.g. Kettle of Fish) Foodstuffs (e.g Eggs) Furniture (e.g. Doors) Household items (e.g. Spoons) Jewellery (e.g. Medallions) Musical Instruments etc<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The PDF scan was acceptable. All pages are legible and it printed out well. Only the last page (the back cover) is crooked.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Although it delivers on its goal, it would still have been nice if it had magical weapons or armour. That would have made it a truly complete product.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>

[4 of 5 Stars!]
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