I’m going to admit that are many occasions when I buy gaming supplements for no other reason than the artwork, and that certainly proved true with my purchase of The Book of Marvelous Magic. Written for the Basic D&D System by Frank Mentzer and Gary Gygax in 1985 [and oddly there are a LOT of 1985 products produced by Gary upon his brief return to TSR from Hollywood and before his ouster in August of that year], this 76 page magical item compendium lists over 500 new magi items.
Now in 1985, Unearthed Arcana was produced for the AD&D system, so this particular softcover was certainly overlooked by most players since they were delving into the new hardcover series that added so much magic, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t have some merit. I mean, how bad can 500 new items be?
Whatever the case, I’ve never used anything from the book, but have always been pleased to gaze at the Clyde Caldwell cover and compare it to the Jeff Easley Unearthed Arcana version of magic incarnate. Clyde, however, uses a female figure, which he always loves to do, and I think this is one of his better works, both in composition and in content. Nothing too overt, but certainly more Swords & Sorcery than Easley would have chosen [as well as TSR would have chosen for a core book].
Inside, 1960/70s throwback artist Doug Watson makes does some rather psychedelic album cover illustrations that would more commonly be found in a Shel Silverstein poetry book. I’m not a huge fan, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have value in an artistic way, they just don’t really fit the genre they have been placed in. Russ Nicholson still has a fantasy edge, but Watson just flips too far to the ‘odd’.
Anyway, if you’ve not seen it, I’d suggest taking a look, and if you are still running a Basic campaign I’m sure it would be nice to have by your side as a DM, especially if stocking a homebrew dungeon.
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