Wednesday, July 18, 2012

May the Dice Be With You!

On a couple of occasions I've told the story of how I landed a free copy of the French language edition of the Tom Moldvay-edited Basic Set in the Fall of 1984. Thanks to my mother, I now have this copy in my hands again and I've spent a portion of the day looking through it -- it's been quite the trip down memory lane! Here's a photo of the box:
As you can see, it uses the same cover as the original 1981 set, even though it was published in late 1982. Here's the title page, which is slightly different:
What's interesting about this page, aside from Gygax's inscription to me, is that the illustration is a Jeff Easley reinterpretation of the original Bill Willingham piece. Next up is the cover of the French version of The Keep on the Borderlands.
This one has a new illustration by Jim Holloway. Also in the box are the French versions of Palace of the Silver Princess and The Lost City, but both of them use them same artwork as the English language originals. Here's the title page of module B2:
There's a second inscription by Gygax, along with another Holloway illustration that I don't recall ever seeing before and that appears to be a variation on the Jim Roslof piece from the version of the module I own. Flipping through these books I noticed quite a few reinterpretations of iconic scenes from the Moldvay rulebook by later artists, including a couple by Larry Elmore. It makes for an odd visual experience, since I "recognize" many of the illustrations, even though they're done in a different style by a different artist.

I'll probably have more to say about the 1982 French Basic Set in the coming days.

13 comments:

  1. That is an awesome looking cover. Nice combination of the two basic "red box" sets. I looks like a missing link.

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  2. I'm getting some serious good-time-memory, how-did-I-get-so-old, I-can-still-smell-what-it-was-like-when-we-would-play, flashbacks with this. Everytime you guys do an unboxing of something old ... ahh

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  3. Wow, these are great.


    I think Holloway did the best illustrations of elves in these older editions.

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  4. Very nice! I feel the game gets less iconic with each new edition and it's nice to see some appreciation for what's very much so still alive in the hearts of older DnD players!

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  5. That looks awesome, thanks for sharing pictures of it.

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  6. That's a great collectible to have. Wonder how many of those are still floating around?

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  7. Oh, my first RPG. :)


    The French translation was sometimes weird. Halflings were called "tinigens". I guess it comes from English "tiny" + French "gens" = people?


    Later, they were called "halfelins" but I think I used "hobbits" or "Demi-Hommes".

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  8. reminds me A LOT the Italian Mentzer's DnD.

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  9. Antonio EleuteriJuly 19, 2012 at 8:38 AM

    Except our version was called Dungeons & Dragons. As always, the French don't lose occasions to translate *everything* (souris anyone?)

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  10. That's the set I started playing RPGs with, when I was a teenager. Sure, the translation is a bit weird, but so are many other translations of English into French - just as if there were fundamental differences between the two languages, not only on a lexical plane, but also on a cultural one, and even in the way of thinking. I recall reading on the back cover of the French version of "The Lord Of The Rings" that the book could be too difficult for the French readers, who are cartesian rationalists, and therefore would have problems imagining a world full of elves, dwarves and magic. A disclaimer of sorts... ;-)
    Anyway, thanks a lot for this post, James. I lost my "Donjons & Dragons" somewhere as I left France - good to see it again, it brings some nostalgia to me...

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  11. Fascinating to unearth pieces from a past you know well: like finding something new in a time capsule.

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  12. My first D&D box! It took me a long time to understand it was different from the english one.

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  13. What intrigues me about this is that the French translation of Keep on the Borderlands - "Le Château Fort aux Confins du Pays" - made me realize something about the English title; the "keep" in the module isn't a keep at all but a castle, as the French title more accurately shows. In French, "keep" would be "donjon," but I guess "Oubliettes et Dragons" lacks the alliterative punch.

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