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El Raja Key Archive» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Little Piece of Heaven rss

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Clark Timmins
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So stop your cheap comment, 'Cause we know what we feel...
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This DVD is a compilation of ancient gaming artifacts from the genesis of the hobby - ground zero, year zero. Literally, it doesn't get better than this.

You are not getting slick commercial products ready to use right out of the box. You are not getting complete adventure modules ready to run (there are a couple that are pretty close, though). You are not getting a developed campaign setting ready to use. If you're looking for stuff like that, it's very easy to find that stuff abundance... but this isn't some of that.

The archive instead contains high resolution scans of a plethora (and I'm using that word correctly) of old gaming artifacts. These are organized and indexed and in a value-added proposition, most of them are introduced with a few paragraphs of useful text.

The scan quality is quite high - I have zero complaints about the scans. They're stored as JPG files and although the DVD organization is a little quirky there's nothing difficult about grabbing off a specific JPG file to use however you might like. The various files have the types of names you'd expect in an archive of this type (p001, p002, p003... like that). This isn't very useful, so you'll have to use the index itself to drill down to the place you're interested in. That's not really a bad thing, though, because it puts the explanatory notes on the same HTML page as the images. The index is implemented in HTML with hyperlinks, so you can access it in whatever browser you'd like. There are a lot of cross-references provided which really helps a lot when you're trying to make sense of things. The HTML index structure itself works but isn't... inspired. Nothing wrong with it; nothing great with it. It's a lot of stuff to organize, I have no problem with the way they organized it.

The contents are vast. Seriously vast. Stuff just goes on and on, from pre-D&D (a couple wargames maps, etc.) through to (about) the mid 1980s. There may be later stuff that I haven't bumped into yet (I've focused on the early stuff so far). While there is a lot of it, it's not complete. There are maps without keys, keys without maps, portions of dungeons, parts of castles, and so forth. It's not a finished product. Everything is hand drawn or hand written on graph paper or lined paper, often with heavy annotations. It's mostly in pencil with occasional ink commentary. But that's not what's so compelling about it.

I don't think, really, it needs much explanation as to why it's intriguing. If you're into the early days of the hobby then you want this archive, plain and simple. If you don't care about early D&D there's nothing here for you. It's that simple - no shades of grey here. There is nothing else even remotely like this archive that I've ever come across. It's compelling for the same reason that The Play Generated Map & Document Archive (http://plagmada.org) is compelling - except that here it's from one of the founding fathers. It's the geek grognard's paradise.

A note about the "versions" of the archive... I find the versions confusing and it's not at all clear to me why they did what they did. But what they did was offer two versions of the archive - a "basic" and a "standard" version. The "basic" DVD presents only stuff that is nearly complete - nearly usable "as is". The "standard" DVD includes the whole basic DVD contents and then adds in a ton of other stuff that's not really usable "as is". The standard version costs a bit more, but I have no idea why anybody would buy the basic version only (?).

The "deluxe" version is the standard DVD bundled with two versions of a print product - Sunken City. The "collector" version is the standard DVD bundled with other versions of the print product. The printed module comes in several versions, one of which is available only in the archive bundle (so they say). Confused yet? Me too. On the plus side, you can "upgrade" your version to any higher version by paying the difference.



tl;dr -
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Robin DH
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This all sounds fascinating, but the price seems steep. ($25 for Basic edition, $80 for Standard, $120 for Deluxe, $160 for Collectors.) For that price, this thing better be so user friendly you purr with glee every time you click. Somethin' in the milk ain't clean!
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Clark Timmins
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I picked up the Standard version during their end-of-year sale for (IIRC) $65. It's absolutely worth that (to me).

The Deluxe and Collectors seemed to be too costly to justify "limited edition" modules which as near as I could tell were the same as the standard edition module but with different color covers (one of the super-special versions has an extra room or something). The "collectors" module is limited to 300 copies, which are all signed. So I guess you get that.
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Si
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For the love of all that is holy, will someone just ask her about the book?
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I confess the price did put me off a little. I can't shake the feeling that it's a bit of a cash grab - scan Rob's gaming notes from the 70's, sell them to the geek boys. Interesting, sure, and I'd love to look it over, but all those editions and different price bands, like the release of a new Metallica album...yuk.

Thanks for the review though, you've definitely made me think about it again for the historical value. I guess I just prefer finished product - I have RJK-1: The Original Bottle City, which is nice product, but the original hand drawn map doesn't add much for me.


(P.S. I just finished reading John Lydon's first autobiography.)
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