AD&D collector cards

Hoo boy. Evey now and then I pull these out from a box of stuff I’d like to sell or at least get rid of, and then I look them over and think they have potential to be put to some use, and then I look them over and the art and descriptions are so uneven I put them away again.

TSR thought that the way to compete with the then wildly popular Magic:the Gathering cards (and a few other collectible card games slowly emerging at the time) was to release their own collectible cards.  Only, it looks like they had no idea how to tackle the job competently.  I am guessing a few interns were told, “you have almost no budget, and will have to use new art created by our in-house illustrators, preferably rough drafts they have already done but no used, and then fill in the back of the cards with whatever.” 

I can think no other explanation as why the cards did not use any existing art from past products, and does not even match the standards of Dragon magazine filler art.  The NPCs, items, monsters, and so on the cards are very uneven.  Some are just existing AD&D things reprinted onto a card.  Some are actually very inventive and unique. 

There are subseries with the cards for the several boxed sets TSR was pushing in the early 1990s — Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Forgotten Realms, and maybe some others, as well a lot of generic ones with no setting.  They were randomly mixed in the card packs, probably on the assumption that completists would want every card for their chosen setting, etc. and buy and buy.

TSR had already released some other card-based products (like spell cards and monster cards — the monster cards were great, with new art, and released very early on, before anyone was doing random card packs for gaming; the spell cards were later and not a bad idea but I was not interested in buying what was already in the PHB).

As a player, the NPC cards seemed pretty useless, especially since most of them are adventurers.  As a DM, I’d rather see hirelings, merchants, damsels in distress, that sort of thing, than NPC adventurers (most of whom are not evil, in compliance with TSR’s misguided code).

I never looked twice at these BITD but a few years after they were released, I picked up a “factory set” and two boxes of packs (meant for a countertop display in a store) for $1 each at a dollar store.  I could have gotten at least a score of sets if I wanted them, but I only a few bucks handy and just picked of each kind of thing they had on sale.  I rifled through the factor set a few times, looking for interesting stuff, and then opened a few packs, out of curiosity, and filed them away for a really long time.  Last month I sent out a few packs to other bloggers I had addresses for or who had bought or traded for stuff from me, just as a little gift. 

You can still find them relatively cheaply on eBay, Troll & Toad, and so on.

Anyway I recently got an idea for how to dispose of some more of them, which I’ll post about later.

Acaeum thread


Published in: on October 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That was a real treat to see and appreciated. I’ve got the ’92 box above but can’t remember ever seeing an actual gum pack! Just thought you might enjoy knowing I did the same as you – passed it along to someone who bought stuff from me via the blog. Cheers

  2. 1992 was before Magic, actually. Spellfire (1994) was TSR’s foray into collective card games and it was renowned for terrible rules and zero attempt to create a balanced or playable game, so it may as well have been a set of trading cards.

    • Hmm — didn’t realize that. I guess I should giuve TSR more credit.

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