AC4: The Book of Marvelous Magic (1985)

The Book of Marvelous Magic (1985) is a curious book. For starters, it is a square-bound book, so its a little unusual to see a module code on it at all (that becomes more of a thing as the decade goes on though). That makes it stand out as strange in the context of the AC-series publications as well. Leading up to this you have a screen, a book of NPCs and a set of tiles (with a short adventure included). Immediately following this you get two books of character sheets, another screen and another set of tiles (with a short adventure included).

It’s strange on its own merits too. It collects all the magic items from the first three BECMI box sets and adds a bunch more — its the first of a couple encylcopedia-style magic item products that TSR would release. It also feels real different from the usual D&D products. There’s lots of border art and negative space — I’d say the layout department over-designed it. If feels like too much.

The real draw is all the magic items and there are plenty to dig through. Lots of them are weird too (and punny, ugh, the puns). Portable masts and logs of snoring and the can of worms all appear among more traditional magic items. The most interesting bit is a short essay at the end that argues the primary difference between basic D&D and AD&D is that basic is easy to modify and advanced is somehow difficult to modify. There are lots of little ways in which TSR tried to convince people about the sanctity of the AD&D rules but this is definitely one of the dumbest of their arguments.

Nice Clyde Caldwell cover. Doug Watson is credited for the interiors — I’m not really familiar with his work. This is also one of only a handful of TSR publications that uses Dover clip art, which seems notable.

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