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1980 TSR Catalog
Back in the good old days, role-playing games were printed in soft cover booklets and came boxed for their protection. I have a bunch of these boxes, not all of them in the best of shape. My most coveted being a fine condition original boxed set of Empire of the Petal Throne from 1973, but I digress.
I was going through the boxes the other day, taking inventory and dreaming of playing, when I found this old catalog. It’s the sum of what the granddaddy of role playing, TSR, had to offer in 1980/1981, and it needed to be shared. It is awesome.
The cover to this catalog is amazing. I knew about most of the products here already, but I loved the art. It typifies the aesthetic of the time. The hand drawn doorway and funky font surrounding the books. This sort of stuff inspired a lot of poor imitations on school notebooks.
The early illustrated cover boxes for Basic and Expert Sets were wonderfully evocative. In a weird twist, I had the expert set before I got my basic set.
Isle of Dread was and is still one of my favorite modules, and certainly my favorite X adventure. Of the B modules, I really enjoy The Palace of the Silver Princess. I use it often with new players and have updated it for every system I have played. I don’t believe it is a perfect adventure, but it has the right flavor and is easy to insert into any fantasy setting.
Every book on this page is amazing. I spent hours pouring through them. The new rule sets, the illustrations, the font, once I went to AD&D, I never looked back.
Always had a soft spot for these screens, even though I switched to later versions. I eventually bought most of these on clearance over the years, but for the most part my character sheets and logs were handmade. The Rogues Gallery is underrated as an aid and helped me develop my own set of pre-canned randoms.
I have proudly either ran or played in ever one of these modules. Tomb of Horrors is certainly the most difficult. Built to slay.
I like running The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan and really enjoyed my time played as a dwarf in the G series.
I never owned a single one of these games as a kid, but I did buy Dungeon! a few years ago, but have yet to play it.
I played a lot of Top Secret and Gamma World. We played Boot Hill briefly, but eventually switch to another old west system called Desperado. I don’t remember why. Never played Fight in the Skies, but my friends and I made up an RPG system based on WWI aerial combat. Not a ton of opportunity for role-playing, but we had a lot of fun with our d6 based combat.
Love the art on these games. I owned The Awful Green Things from Outer Space. It was fun, but we didn’t play it much.
I could write a love letter to Fiend Folio. In my game closet, I think I have 5 copies of it. It felt new and exotic, while being very familiar at the same time. As a DM, I think the best part of owning it was being able to throw monsters at my players that they had never heard of.
If you want to play in Greyhawk, the World of Greyhawk is the perfect place to start. Before I developed my own world, I used Greyhawk and never really made the move to the Forgotten Realms when it was released. Although I do enjoy the world building of the Forgotten Realms, and they have released some great novels set there.
I burned through a lot of Dragon Dice in my day and still have the chipped remains of many sets.
LOVE Dragon Magazine. It was always filled with thought-provoking articles and gave you a sense of community. For my money, though, Dungeon magazine was the better investment. I have every issue of Dungeon and a heck of a lot of Dragon.
Never got to GENCON, even though I desperately wanted to go. As you can see here, they held GENCON EAST in Cherry Hill, NJ. To be so close, but yet so far really hurt.
Why these shirts have not been reprinted to death is beyond me. I want all of them.
Here is the order form for the shirts. 6 bucks a shirt! Including shipping! What a bargain. That would be $15.10 nowadays, which would still be worth it.
Finally, here is the Index of the catalog. Not very exciting, but I like the font.