Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Ads of Dragon: The Enchanted World

Another good gauge of the vitality of the hobby back in the early and mid-1980s is the diversity of advertisements one might find in the pages of Dragon in those days. Though most were fantasy or science fiction-related, not every ad was for a gaming product. A good case in point is this one from issue #94 (February 1985):
The Enchanted World was a series of Time-Life books that presented stories collected from legend, mythology, and folklore together under a single theme, like Wizards & Witches or Dragons, to cite just two examples. Life all Time-Life books, the series was lavishly illustrated and fairly expensive to purchase. I think it was the artwork that won me over and so I subscribed to it for a time, getting maybe 10 or 12 books of the 21 that were eventually released.

Though not specifically written with gaming in mind, The Enchanted World books nevertheless provided great fodder for my hobby. Back in 1985, when I saw this ad, I was going through a period of dissatisfaction with D&D -- and indeed all fantasy games -- because I found them to be too far removed from their mythological inspirations. What I craved was fantasy more in keeping with the ancient tales I'd devoured as a kid, so The Enchanted World gave me lots of fodder for imagining such things. I won't claim my attempts to make D&D more "mythologically true" were particularly successful, but I didn't much care, because those attempts scratched an itch I'd had and I was grateful for that.

16 comments:

  1. I have this series and it's awesome. I subscribed to it exactly as a source material for my D&D games, and it has the aded benefit of a Bibliography section in the back of each volume, and it lists the serious folklorists among its sources, who were the major scholars in the source cultures to be the first to have written down those fairy tales. Some of the first versions are not always pretty and some times definitely not for kids.

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  2. I loved these ads and had a number of the books over the years, only to re-sell them in lean times. I think I owned "Wizards & Witches" three different times. Still have a copy of that.

    Of course they were influenced but the "D&D culture" of the time and they later influenced other games (and more to the point gamers). The "Occult Library" quality in Buffy at the lowest levels is "owns a set of Time-Life books".

    Maybe one day I'll own the whole set, but the biggest issue with this is not the price so much but the books are much taller than normal and they don't fit in the books cases in my game room.

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  3. Those Time-Life series were wonderful. I have an older one on "the occult" (including UFOs, &c.) that still is a marvelous source of inspiration for all sorts of RPGs.

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  4. I have this series. It's the reason I know what a karkadann is, and why GURPS Dungeon Fantasy now has stats for them.

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  5. My dad had a bunch of the different Time-Life series. They were great to have in the house growing up without the internet. I got a lot for my games out of this particular series too.

    Also, he had a Man, Myth, and Magic series—which I don’t think was Time-Life—that I got a lot out of too.

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  6. I remember the old Vincent Price ad for these books. Always thought that was a great commercial. One of my best friend's parents bought him this for Christmas one year. It was lost on him. Though not a big fantasy fan, I always enjoyed mythology, and found myself more interested in such things after studying Beowulf in high school. I read these whenever I went to his house. Finally, he just gave me the four that he had. I've added several more over the years, and still like to pull them off the shelves once in a while.

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  7. I loved these as a kid! We never owned any, but I checked them out from the library all the time.

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  8. Man, I completely forgot about these! So much time was spent wrapped up in those. I thought they were like Zoobooks, but in hard back for made up stuff. They treated everything like it was real and researchable. So neat. Man, I would love a copy of these.

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  9. The Time-Life series books had great production values. I also checked out these and the Mysteries of the Unknown books from the public library multiple times.

    YouTube has some of the TV commercials for the series.

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  10. Everyman Library did a series of imposing looking hardback tomes back in the 30's encapsulating whole mythological cycles. My school library had several of them, and they were reprinted as cheap paperbacks when copyright ran out on them. These were where I learned my mythology, the Norse and Teutonic volumes were great, and the series covered Greek, Roman, Chinese, Welsh and so on. Our school also had an abridged version of the Golden Bough available as well. That was an eye opener for a 14 year old...

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  11. I have the entire collection.

    Bow down to me now!

    they're great. really got me thinking in my teen years about where all of these various myths and legends came from.

    Kinda makes you wonder...

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  12. Man, I remember the television commercial for those books. I wanted them so bad, that I actually called Time Life without my parents permission and ordered them COD. My folks weren't too happy and I just ended up with the first book Wizard's & Witches.

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  13. Blackstone, you are veritable god amongst geeks. I have several of these books got them from my brother who sold them over the phone from a hot warehouse near Lake Union. Good books.

    I wrote a post yesterday all about inspiration.

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  14. I also have the entire collection.

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  15. My dad got me this series when I was super young, he may still have the whole collection. I got the Mysteries of the Unknown set at a yard sale a few months back.

    One of the great things about Enchanted World was the art. One artist in particular always resonated with me, and recently I tracked him down and interviewed him here: http://crappyindiemusic.blogspot.com/2011/04/jess-interviews-marshall-arisman-part.html

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