Alright, not necessarily a game related blog post, but it involves a book that belongs in my gaming collection, and a novel that I draw a lot of inspiration for gaming with. Still, for my non-gaming friends, feel free to join the conversation! This blog post is all about those books we buy, half priced or used or whatever, and the character of the books that almost tell a tale besides the one printed on the pages.
The Monster Manual That Served Time
This evening I received a hard copy of the D&D Monster Manual, 4th Edition. I’ve been making due with a digital copy all this time, followed by my friends purchasing the box set and periodically borrowing their copy when I’m not feeling like navigating a PDF. One of my good friends and regular players (and hostess for our gaming group) managed to snag me a used copy, and let me tell you, it’s different.
For starters, it seems the previous owner of the book attempted to self-laminate the Monster Manual with packing tape. We thought maybe the cover was peeling until we further examined the inside cover of the book. Even more impressive, the previous owners name was inscribed along with a set of numbers. The icing on the cake? Nice, stamped “TDCJ APPROVED” in red ink across the inside cover. For those who don’t know, that means “Texas Department of Criminal Justice.” This was someone’s copy in Jail.
Apparently, there was a full set of core books like this at our local store. I can’t help but wonder…did he hawk it because now he’s out, and doesn’t want to play again? Or did he get these while serving his sentence, and decided he hated 4E? Or, as my fiancee proposed, did he sell these copies because he needed the money? It’s questions I wish I could hear the answers to, for some strange reason, although all logic says “No, not worth finding out.”
It just kinda added a cool factor to my book. Not “cool” in that yay, a criminal owned this, but cool because it’s a side of gaming you never hear much of. One of my friends, a long time ago when we lived together, worked for a private security prison. He told me about all the gamers on his watch. It seemed kind of cruel: the D&D books were allowed, but dice aren’t. This is due to them being linked to gambling and thus, contraband. Many guys I’ve known who either worked in jails, or spent time there themselves, have told me stories of D&D behind bars.
I’ve heard stories of the guys who memorized the old books, and wound up asking my friend if he recalled certain, specific rules because it slipped their memory. I’ve also heard of the crazy improvisation to replace dice in the Pen; everything from numbered pieces of paper to wooden boards with dials or spinners, surrounded by colored rings with different numbers to represent the different dice. One friend of mine has even gone into great detail talking about a twenty sider he claims he made from soap; and the disappointment for when it was taken up.
Jail is a place I’m hoping I never have to see. I have a pretty clean record, and I have no plans on stepping out of line with the law. Still, I can’t help but be fascinated with the prison stories of gamers just trying to pass the time, and their ingenuity to handle a lack of books, dice or other resources we take for granted. I’m going to take damn good care of this book; it’s probably seen more shit than I’ll ever care to.
The Extra Lessons in Snow Crash
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson is pretty damn awesome. It’s a heavily cyberpunk influenced story with an internet concept that would later be the credited inspiration for Second Life, oozes with style and coolness and at the same time makes you put your thinking caps on for the subject of religion and society. If you haven’t read it, freaking go out and get a copy NOW. The essential theme is the idea that religion spreads in society like a virus, and a lot of the book is exploring this theme to understand a computer virus that is melting people’s brains.
I read this book in High School, and loved it, and placed it in my heart next to Gibson and Orwell (that’s big in my book.) Not too long ago, I found a jumbo sized softcover for $5 at a Half Priced Books, and snagged that bad boy. I’ve been meaning to re-read for some time, but haven’t gotten around to it. Tonight, after another successful game of Cyberpunk 2020, I decided to pull it off the shelf and give another read. I have a tendency to flip through the books before reading, especially if I’ve read it before, just to look over the fonts and feel the pages and smell the musty old things and just get in the mood. WHAT’S THIS!?!? INK!?!? SOMEONE WROTE IN THE BOOK!?!?!?
Wait, this might actually be cool….seems someone was jotting little side notes for themselves and underlining key words, mostly related to the religious and philosophical content of the book. I can’t help but wonder; was there a class somewhere that studied this title? Or was this person just really wanting to dive in and further explore all of the references, mythologies and histories presented? I’m thinking this is going to be a fun read over….they tagged certain words with their own findings, and even little hints for future reading. It’s like an easter egg hunt for further knowledge; stuff I may have passed by and just nodded and kept going with, now I’ll have a guide on this strange journey to further understand.
How freaking cool is that?
So flood my comments people! Surely you guys have some used books with Character to them! I want to hear the stories and wonders of the strange tomes you’ve come across!