Friday, 28 November 2008

Of All the Girls I've Loved Before...

Sourcebooks. Some are bad, some are good, most are indifferent. Here are my favourites.

1. Pacific Rim Sourcebook for Cyberpunk 2020. There are lots of flaws in this book, not least that the section on Japan is far too long and those on the really interesting countries (Korea, the Phillippines, Indonesia, Myanmar) are far too short. But it does a brilliant job of setting out a detailed, cohesive, believable futuristic Pacific Rim - not at all far-fetched, and with just a touch of imaginative flair. The post-apocalyptic Australia in particular is a great Mad Max rip-off and a perfect place for a down and dirty Cyberpunk 2020 campaign. The book also contains an expansion for the detailed martial arts rules for which the game is rightly famed, together with glossaries of major East Asian languages (although I'm not sure how accurate they are if the Japanese one is anything to go by) and lots of new guns.

2. The Planewalker's Handbook for 2e AD&D. This is definitely my favourite TSR-produced sourcebook, mainly because I love its scrapbook, ad hoc approach, where on one page you'll find rules for Genasi player characters, on the next baatezu green steel, then a kit for wizards who fly around in hot air balloons after that... It's like a treasure trove. Not only that, it contains the rules for Belief Points, which were one of the major innovations in late-era TSR D&D and just about perfect for the Planescape setting.

3. Changeling: The Dreaming, The Player's Guide. Changeling: The Dreaming was always the most interesting of the World of Darkness settings (in fact the only one I ever really liked), and the player's guide was like the icing on the cake - more detail about the major races, plus a whole shedload of material on Native American fae. Best of all was the final section on the Autumn People; the idea of individuals who can kill fae through their sheer banality was way more scary in its own way than anything in Vampire or Werewolf.

4. The Orcs of Thar, for BECMI D&D. Evil humanoid races as player characters for classic D&D. Need one say more? Well, throw in rules for humanoid shamans, a ridiculous board game that nobody ever played, background info on all the races, and sheafs of maps. What more could a person want?

5. The Northwestern Middle Earth Map Set, for MERP. One of the cornerstones of being a Tolkien fan is the love of the geography, and one of the main pleasures of that occupation is poring over maps and imagining what might be found in the places illustrated. This book fulfils that need to connect with Middle Earth cartography in style.


  1. I played the boardgame! When i killed my friends Bugbear king it made him so mad he left in the middle of the game. It was a pretty fun game if I remember correctly.

  2. Thanks for putting me onto a few of these - I like the idea of the Pacific Rim sourcebook particularly. Lists are great! They take you places you don't normally go.
    I like Night City for Cyberpunk, the Seattle Sourcebook for Shadowrun (I lived in Seattle so this one just grabbed me), the Spherewalker Sourcebook for Everway, Lorien for MERP and either Delta Green or Cthulhu by Gaslight for CoC. They're all just great mines of ideas.

  3. Ligedog: I stand corrected. I'll have to dig it out and give it another look.

    Viriconium: I've never read any of those! I'll have to see if I can find the Night City one anywhere.

  4. And I hadn't read any of yours! Funny we should both have played all these games and never crossed sourcebook paths. I found Night City on ebay, quite easily and cheaply, but I paid a silly amount for the Spherewalker Sourcebook (90 US dollars I think). I left Lorien in a bag under the pool table in the Spire Arms pub. For the Pacific Rim Sourcebook it would seem as though I am going to have to resort to that saddest of all formats, the pdf download :(

  5. My list would include:

    Skills and Powers, 2eDnD. God, that was an awful book. So much tinkering, so much abuse. The idea that you could separate your strength in to the hitting part and the carrying things part, and sacrifice one for the other - I can't imagine who designed that didn't have a *very* strong inner munchkin.

    Kithbook: Pooka, CtD. Honestly, all the Kithbooks were generally awesome (at least in the early releases). But I am through and through a pooka fiend, so this book just did it.
    Clanbook: Malkavian, VtM. This book was a brilliant showing of how to play an insane vampire that wasn't WOO WOO! LoOkIt Me mA!

    Dark Sun. I read every Dark Sun novel that came out, and I loved the way it twisted the DnD stereotypes. Feral cannibal halflings, deceitful elves, Focused dwarves - good stuff.

    Any of the Street Samurai guides for Shadowrun. They OOZED flavor. THe guns were nice and all, but they were just stats. But the comments, and the flavor text, were great.

    Paranoia: Complex of Dimness. I was a huge fan of Paranoia, and of the WoD. So when Paranoia came out with a WoD spoof, I could barely contain myself.

  6. Lorechaser: I still have Skills and Powers somewhere, but I never used it. Even when I was 15 or whatever and first bought it, I can remember paging through it and feeling tainted by the sheer potential for abuse.

  7. You were entirely correct.

    My friends and I ran through all the 1st ed Dragonlance modules a few summers back, after converting them to 2e. We made Skills and Powers characters.

    I played, I kid you not, a morning star specialized cleric who cast fireballs. I believe at 6th level, I had 5/2 for attacks and +2 damage per hit. It was truly ugly.

    Course, the module also had DM text that read something like "if the players do not agree to search for the item, 2d10 Draconians appear every 1d12 hours until they are killed, or agree to search for it."

    Which was great.

  8. Lots of Draconians for your cleric to kill. ;)

  9. Indeed. It was very much that kind of game.

    And thinking more about it, I'm pretty sure he was dual-wielding morningstars. Which were probably the only weapon he could use.