I have an obsession with rare and limited edition gaming books. Not just collectors editions or limited runs (although it certainly includes those) but books that are also hard to get hold of or that hold a certain prestige in the wider gaming community because of their quality.
I haven’t always had this obsession, I wish I had as it’d mean that I’d have an original copy of Ptolus, but rather it has crept un on me over time. It started slowly, with me seeking out hard to obtain campaign books, but it has grown into a passion and a curse.
I’d argue that it started when I was trying to get hold of a copy of Beyond the Mountains of Madness for Call of Cthulhu. It’s a campaign that I dearly wanted to run and that meant tracking on down but it constantly eluded me, attaining prices on ebay that I just couldn’t reasonably justify paying. Thats where my players come in, they bought it for me as a birthday present and I am eternally grateful, it’s just a shame it didn’t live up to it’s reputation.
Beyond the Mountains of Madness is a beautiful book, well written, detailed, complex and engaging, but it’s also immensely difficult to run and is not campaign I would suggest anyone pick up unless they are willing to put in considerable work to make it work. The cast of npcs alone is dozens strong and all have their own motivations for joining the expedition and all, every single one, requires a distinct personality in order to bring the plot to life and do it justice.
Since them my collection of rare, hard to find and limited or collectors editions has swelled. My obsession has lead to me dropping a significant amount of money on the Call of Cthulhu 7th edition Kickstarter in order to get the leatherette editions (despite the fact that it’s close to 2 years late at this point). It has lead me to backing Kickstarters such as Paranoia so I can acquire Kickstarter only editions like it’s red box and it has expanded to include board games, such as the Tiny Epic series of games, such as Tiny Epic Galaxies.
After Beyond the Mountains of Madness I acquired the Warhammer Forge (an imprint of Forgeworld) title, Tamurkhan- The Throne of Chaos. Tamurkhan was the first in what was supposed to be a line of books for Warhammer that mirrored the Imperial Armour books for 40k. It’s a stunning, leatherbound, tome that is printed in full colour on parchment like paper and the quality of writing is excellent. Aside from the more recent Horus Heresy series of books, this is the best book that Forgeworld have ever produced. It’s not so much rare or limited, especially since the Warhammer world was destroyed in the End Times campaign, but mine was one of the first 500 as is signed by Alan Bligh, making it prestigious to me.
Warhammer Forge did produce a second book, one that wasn’t a campaign in the same was as Tamurkhan, but had equally high production values, the Monstrous Acarnum Volume 1. This book, which was as exquisitely well illustrated as Tamurkhan, serves to introduce a significant number of mythical creatures to the Warhammer world, creatures that could be fielded by many armies and would be fearsome in battle.
Again this was supposed to be the first in a line of books that never saw production and isn’t particularly rare or expensive but it’s beautiful enough to warrant a mention.
Next came more gifts from my wife, who bought me the limited edition versions of both Deathwatch and Black Crusade for my birthday. These books, produced by Fantasy Flight Games, are some of the most attractive and unique books in my collections and both deserve singular attention.
Deathwatch is a book bound in black leather, printed on thick parchment paper with a stylised Inquisition I embossed in silver on front cover and silver edged pages and a silver silk bookmark. It comes in a large metal ammo box, with a chain and Librarian key that acts to bind it closed and with a skull symbol on the front and side, in addition to the stylised I of the Inquisition on the front. The book is held snugly inside the tin, on the right, secured by a belt with an Aquila buckle (although this is velcro and not a true belt). Inside the tin, on the left, is a hand written writ confirming that I am a member of the Deathwatch (individually personalised) that is held in place via purity seals.
Deathwatch was limited to 2000 copies, with 500 of those not being personalised and therefore being less desirable as far as I’m concerned. I have heard that some people have had poor or faulty bindings that have perished and fallen apart after as little as an hours reading but that isn’t the case with mine and I genuinely feel that the production values are high. My only criticism is that the skull on the front has a rather poor plastic red gem as an eye and that couple have been easily upgraded to something made of glass or omitted to make it look a little better.
Black Crusade is another black leather bound tome, printed on the same thick parchment paper as Deathwatch and with a red silk bookmark. It has a gold embossed star of chaos on the front and the pages are edged in gold also. Black Crusade comes in a custom resin slipcase that has been painted to looked like aged and oxidised copper and brass, with a green patina. The resin is moulded to represent an evil and cursed tome and is covered in spikes with a large, central star of chaos on the front cover. The inside front cover contains a handwritten and personalised Writ Excommunicate Tratoris, confirming that I have been excommunicated from the Imperium of man and been branded a Traitor.
Black Crusade was limited to 1500 copies and comes with an additional dozen or so pages of content depicting example characters and NPCs.
After the two 40k books I had a little bit of a lull in my collecting of rarer or limited edition books. During that time I built a sizeable collection of other books, most notably Shadowrun 1st-3rd edition and I backed the presently ill-fated Call of Cthulhu 7th edition, also pledging for the new release of the classic Horror on the Orient Express. The latter is another campaign that i’ve long wanted to own and run and while an original copy would be an excellent addition to my collection, the new version, with it’s updated rules and additional content, looked far too attractive to pass up on.
Still, the obsession never left me and next I happened upon another opportunity to expand my collection, one I couldn’t pass up on. As I’ve said, during this lull I’d been amassing a sizeable collection of Shadowrun products, which tied in with my running of that particular game and, during that time, Shadowrun 5th edition was released. The release came with two limited edition versions of the core book, one was a little to rich for my blood, but the other, the Dragon Edition, was exactly the type of thing I like to own.
The Dragon Edition comes bound in red leather with the head of a dragon embossed deeply on the cover. The lettering, on the cover and the spine, are both in gold, as are the page edges, and the book has a red silk bookmark sewn in. The content is much the same, except that there are two fold out posters incorporated into the pages. The first of these folds out to show Berlin on one side and individual A4 artwork on the other.
The second folds out to show Tenochtitlan on one side and the front covers of each of the core books from 1st-4th edition on the reverse.
Most recently I obtained 2 more books for my collection. The first was a birthday gift from my ever understanding wife, a copy of The Great Pendragon Campaign, another of my Holy Grails. This campaign is epic, quite literally, as it covers 85 years from the reign of King Uther through to after King Arthur disappears after the battle of Camlann. In it players take the role of 3 different generations of landed knights, founding their own dynasty and playing Grandfather, Father and Son, all serving as Knight of the Round Table. It is a mighty tome at 430 pages and is the life’s work of it’s creator, Greg Stafford. This book is considered one of the true ‘Great Campaigns’, for any system and is a magnificent product.
Finally, and the catalyst for this article really, is my recent acquisition of the Shadowrun 5th edition supplement, Run and Gun. This book is bound in the same red leather as the 5th edition core book and the cover is deeply embossed with a sword, axe and gun, all crossed. Like the core book all of the writing on the cover and spine is in gold. This particular edition also comes with a double sided, A2 poster depicting many of the weapons from this book and the core book.
This last is the reason that collecting limited editions and rare books is a blessing and a curse. Owning just the core book as a limited edition version is fine, it makes sense and looks lovely on the shelf, but now i’ve added one of the core supplements to that it means that I need to get limited edition copies of all of the core supplements, it just wouldn’t feel right otherwise. In a weird way i’ve been outwitted by my own desire for shiny things.
Of course these aren’t the only shiny or special things in my collection, they aren’t even necessarily my most prized items, that honour probably belongs to my complete Planescape collection of which my copies of Planes of Conflict and Hellbound- The Blood War have pride of place. Or it could be another gift from my wife, my framed copy of Dragonlance’s Ansalon, signed with “May Dragons Fly ever in your Dreams” by Margaret Weis. It’d be hard, if not impossible, to pick a favourite item, all I know is that I won’t stop collecting, there are more Holy Grails (Ptolus is still out there) to be had, more “Great Campaigns” to find and run, more adventures to be had, in gaming and collecting.