Sunday, December 21, 2014

Monstrous Confirmation

I don't mention it enough, but I have been slowly clearing out the Archives in my house. And by Archives I mean the small bedroom on the lowest floor that used to be stuffed with long boxes of comic books and old game product I have accumulated over the years. A lot of this material has shown up on Ebay in the Stannex Mart under the careful curation of Anne Trent, who has served as Ebay mistress for both Stan! and I for several years. And even though this is much too late for Christmas, it might be a place you want to check out with the holiday money once you've decided "and now I'm going to get something for ME."

In any event, Anne has been handling things swimmingly, slowly reducing the boxes of product I have cataloged and passed along to her, and turning the Archive room into a small guest room that only Harry Potter would consider as an upgrade. I will do the occasional signing and personalization, but to be honest, most folks are just looking for old product. And that's cool. But every so often she will get a request that I will have to come in on.

One purchaser, who bought an old copy of the Kara-Tur Monstrous Compendium, wanted to make sure that it was really once mine, and so we decided to make a video certificate of provenance, that yes, this copy of KTMC was once in my possession and is now in someone else's possession.

Of course, I didn't use this particular copy. As an employee of TSR, I received one copy of everything we published each month, in order to have copies available to research. This MC, and a fair chunk of the TSR product in my Archive, were duly taken home, put in a box, moved to Seattle, left in the box until such a time that we decided we really needed the room. And that is the heritage of that particular copy, which is probably still in the shrink wrap.

I say probably because these loose-leaf Monstrous Compendiums were a bit of a wash as a game product, and there are not as many complete ones as you would think. The concept was something that players had asked for repeatedly - a collection of loose-leaf sheets with one monster on each side, which would let the DM pull the monsters he wanted for an particular session without having to haul around several volumes, or tipping the player to what monster manual they were pulled one (Here's an old DM trick - pick up a copy of the original Fiend Folio, leaf through it, then say "You see a skeleton". Freaked out the players every time).

The idea of making a ring-binder Monstrous Compendium was good in theory, but didn't work in practice. Part of it was because in order to have a loose-leaf folder, the MCs would not be the same size as the other books (which made for stocking challenges). AND the fact was that those old notebooks were notorious for the rings not lining up and pinching fingers when it closed. AND the fact that unless you put little gummy reinforcement rings on the pages, they would rip out. AND the fact we put one monster to a page meant that minor monsters either had to have a lot more written about them, or have a lot of white space on the page. AND if you had a Goblin on one side of page, and a Gnome on the other, there was no place to put a Gnoll, which sort of defeated the purpose of alphabetization in the first place. Oh, AND once broken from the shrink wrap, the pages went everywhere, so you ended up losing monsters you had earlier pulled out.

So it was one of the great noble experiments we committed to, and when we reprinted the book (as the Monstrous Manual, part of "Edition 2.5" ), it was a standard hardback. A few years later, a fan hit me up at a convention that we should write up individual monsters, one to a page, so the DMs could alphabetize them. I pointed out that we did exactly that, and it was a bust. His response of "Yeah, but this time you can do it RIGHT!"

Yeah, thanks, there. And yes, and that copy of the KTMC?  Yeah, that's mine. Anne recorded a small video last night.

More later,

Update One: Here's the file I recorded. I mention the young man's name it in, but I don't mention it here in text so it doesn't show up on search engines. Yes, if you want a signature or similar video, we're cool with it.

Update Two: While talking about all the challenges of the original Monstrous Compendiums, John Rateliff reminded me that he and I, along with David Wise and a couple other folks, sat down and decided what creatures from the already-published MCs were going into that MC. I had quite forgotten.

Update Three: Yes, I've shaved off the beard. It was for a 1920's party where I trimmed the mustache back to look like William Powell, but ended up looking more like Mr. Mooney. I'll probably grow it back.

Update Four: Oh, yeah, I still have about 90 longboxes of unbagged, unsorted comics in the basement dating back to the 70s. Still trying to get rid of them.