Take a good, long look at this image. That's the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Woodburning Set, released in 1983. Tim Hutchings recently reminded me of its existence. Goodness knows how I forgot it. Apparently, it is true that the human mind protects itself against memories so traumatic that they might permanently do it damage.
Really, what can you say when confronted with a horror like this? I frequently catch flak, particularly from players who entered the hobby during the Silver Age, about my negative feelings toward things like the D&D action figures, which some claim "opened up" the hobby to a wider audience. I think that's patently ridiculous, but I understand the sentiment and at least a rational argument could be constructed that playing with action figures is a form of roleplaying and thus could lead younger kids to seek out the "real thing" later on. But a woodburning set that lets me make jewelery boxes and notecard holders? What the devil does that have to do with roleplaying or Dungeons & Dragons?
No matter how charitable I try to be, I can conceive of no logical explanation for how anyone at TSR could have imagined a woodburning set would contribute to the growth of the hobby -- the growth of D&D as a brand perhaps but not the hobby. Products like this are the ones that remind us that "lifestyle gaming," to use an unfortunate recent coinage, didn't start in the 21st century. TSR was trying to cultivate such a thing way back at the dawn of the Silver Age. And the woodburning set wasn't the only abomination from those days either. I distinctly recall there being D&D Colorforms, D&D puffy stickers, D&D flashlights, even D&D candy. I'm sure there were many other similarly bizarre D&D licensed products of which I am thankfully unaware.
Never having created a powerful intellectual property of my own, I suppose I don't understand the drive to exploit it ruthlessly through all manner of merchandising. D&D isn't the only IP guilty of this by any means, so I don't want to give the impression I consider it the worst offender. It's simply difficult for me to fathom how those three little brown books, the bastard child of miniatures wargaming and pulp fantasy, could in turn give birth to a line of rub-down transfers and beach towels. I have a similarly difficult time fathoming why anyone in charge of the IP thought that promoting the brand rather than the game would prove successful in the long run, but, as I said, I've never created a world-renowned IP of my own and there's probably something vital I'm missing.