Gateway to Adventure (1980)

I haven’t said this in a while, so you may have forgotten, but I love catalogs. They’re such important crystal balls into the past! You get a far more vivid picture of a moment in time flipping through a catalog than a history book. I mean that on the every day level, you get the vibe of that moment. Old newspapers and magazines are similar, but I much prefer catalogs. They have details other sources overlook.

This is TSR’s 1980 Gateway to Adventure catalog. It’s the first widely circulated TSR catalog. There was an earlier version with a black and white cover; it has minor differences and probably appeared in late 1979, but there aren’t a lot of copies out there. There aren’t a ton of these, either — you’re more likely to find the brown-framed 1981 version in the wild.

This one boast some delightfully amateurish layout (1981 is far more pro), and I find it very charming. But the real sell for me is just getting to see the totality of TSR’s products in one place, and the surprising things we learn from that. Like — there really isn’t a lot of D&D in this catalog! A two page spread takes care of all 25 AD&D products. The white box and the Holmes Basic share real estate with Boot Hill, Gamma World and Top Secret. The rest of the (admittedly brief) catalog details board and war games. There’s only ten on offer, but it feels like they are just as important to TSR as D&D. Which is surprising considering how few things in the catalog have stood the test of time that aren’t D&D.

And man, that cover painting is great. Dave Sutherland, if my eyes don’t deceive me.

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