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RPG Oddity: The Book of All Games


So I recently acquired a used copy of a book I was familiar with in my youth. The book in question is a French book who's title can be translated to "The Book of All Games" and it's a sort of encyclopedia of games you can play with a regular deck of cards, dice, rocks, sticks, your friends, there's a section on casino games, a section on Go, all sorts of Chess and Checkers variants...

It was first published in 1989 and republished again in 2000. My school library had the 1989 edition and I borrowed it multiple times, even made my own Chinese Chess board. Later I would find it at my local library and recently wanted to check it out but it was no longer in their catalog... so I went online and got one in a used bookstore in France. Hurray for the Internet.

Why am I bringing up this book and why did I want to check it out again? Because the last section of the book is:

Introduction to role playing game! The Previous page mentions Gary Gygax and this ne mentions two magazine on RPG ('Backstab' and 'Multimondes') probably from France. I thought it would be neat to take a look at the system presented because I didn't have much memory of it (except for one particular encounter I'll mention later). The goal of the game, for the adventurer, is simplified as basically "Traverse the universe created by the game master, loot all the treasure you can and get out alive". This introduction does not have any character creation, let alone character progression, including only 5 pre generated characters: Merlin the Magician, Thorgain the Thief, Gauvain the Knight, Frère (Brother) Jean the Priest and Eric the Barbarian Warrior. No girls... but the book does tell you to feel free to change the names.


There's no stats to the character, no DEX or STR or anything, not even an attack bonus! Just some hit points and AC. There's also money but I have no idea why since there's no purchasable equipment list. The game's 'combat system' if you might want to call it that uses a 2D6 system. If there's no surprise involved, Adventurer and the game master roll a die and the side with the highest result goes first (entire side in one initiative order). When you attack you just roll a naked 2D6 and try to hit a specific number based on the AC of the target. An AC of 0 requires a 3 or higher, so you can still miss on a 2 (on 2D6) and the highest AC is 7 with a target number of 11 (I should have taken a picture of the chart, d'oh!). Damage is then based on your weapon. And that's pretty much it. You'll notice that Merlin's dagger inflicts either 1 or 2 damage, depending if you rolled even or odd on your dice, but Thorgain's hatchet inflicts d6-1 damage and Frère Jean's wooden club inflicts d6-2, thus, even if they have a higher ceiling, they can still fail to inflict any damage! In fact, Jean's club is worse than the dagger with a 1 in 3 chances to fail to inflict ANY damage at all! A bit of an oversight huh? Gauvain's Two-Handed Sword inflicts D6, but Eric's Longsword inflicts D6+1. Eric also has the only long range weapon of the party, a magic bow that automatically inflicts 1 damage on a target without fail, but he only has 10 arrows that can't be used again.

Of note on the character sheet are the special abilities who have a number of usage with no refresh mechanic, since this introductory game only includes a single dungeon to explore (more on that later) in what is basically a single adventuring day. Merlin has a series of spells with a number of usage but none of them inflict damage (but he does speak and read every language!):

  • He can instantaneously disappear once for an undetermined duration, and maybe he can use it as a reaction? Who knows!
  • He has two usage of a Sleep spell to put enemies to sleep. Again, no real duration.
  • He has two usage of Spider Web spell that's described as unbreakable and is placed between him and an enemy. Possibly a reaction?
  • He has two usage of a Strength Modification spell. He can multiply by 2 the damage of his allies or half the damage of the enemies, again with no real duration but I assume it's for a whole fight.

Our Thief and Barbarian both have the ability to move without making noise, which might be useful when looking into the monsters in the adventure. The Thief also has abilities with limited usage:

  • He can listen to a door three times
  • He can hide without being discovered three times
  • He can pick 4 locks.

The Knight is clearly the Fighter because he has zero special abilities. Just the best AC and HP.

Frère Jean is never attacked by undeads (such as vampires, ghouls, skeleton etc), and has two Terror spells that forces an enemy to flee. His main ability is that he can heal his allies a full d6 of hit points. Of interest is that the limit of times he can do it is dependant on the target (three times per character) and it's specifically noted his healing ability can't be used on dead characters (0 HP).

After that there's a section talking about monsters. Note that the Kobold it mentions are specifically the dog faced versions and not the more modern draconian guys! And then we get to the adventure with two old school maps:


The giant sea of quicksand is a major hasard.


The weird round shapes with letters are monsters.

Basic dungeon, no extra story or buried catacombs, a door hidden behind a tapestry leading to what seems to be a vampire crypt. Or note is room no. 12, which center is occupied by a giant gelatinous cube! This is the room I remember sticking to my memory. The cube has different faces of different colors and will turn around to present different colors once you 'defeat one of the faces' and it's not quite clear if the HP mentioned is for 1 face or the cube in its entirety. (it has 6 HP btw). When defeated, the cube melts into liquid that drains through a grate in the floor, leaving behind a gleaming black key. A key that I don't think is actually useful in this dungeon and seem to only exist as a way to entice your player to want to look for its keyhole? The next room after is basically the end of the dungeon. Though, admittedly, I haven't taken the time to read the description for every room yet. One last interesting note is that the exemple of play specifically calls out the role of spokesperson for the party in its interaction with the game master , a more commonly defined concept in older editions of D&D.

Sorry if this might have been boring. I thought this little oddity would be interesting to the people of the board. The book itself has multiple authors and I have no idea which ones specifically is responsible for this section of the book, or if they all contributed, and I don't recall at the moment if there's an art credit (if there is, I'll add it in the comment). I'd be curious to talk to anyone who might have used this book because there's a lot of room for 'rulings not rules' that's for sure! This wasn't the first RPG I read, having first cut my teeth on a French version of the British game DragonQuest so I didn't give it a shot when I first borrowed this book (and one of my friend was already into DnD at the time), but I still remember that giant cube room!

Any of you guys ever ran into something like this before? A simpler than basic introduction to RPGs?

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I'm unfamiliar with this particular book, but I ran across a similar games book (written in English) at a library many years ago that described a bunch of board games and, like you, took the opportunity to create not only a Chinese Chess set, but also a Shogi (Japanese Chess) set, a three-player chess set (using hexagons of three colors, which meant having three bishops, one traveling on each color), and a four-player chess set (whose board was in the shape of a plus sign). Good times - they went well with my Jetan (Barsoomian Chess) set, which I made using the appendix at the back of "The Chessmen of Mars" by Edgar Rice Burroughs.


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