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Taking A Look At The "New" POD Versions of Star Frontiers And The D&D Rules Cyclopedia

With the rise of PDF and POD (print on demand) publishing powering more role-playing publishers, one thing that I have advocated for a while now is that there is really no longer much of a reason for games to go out of print. Today I am going to look at the new POD versions of Star Frontiers and the D&D Rules Cyclopedia available via the OneBookShelf sites.


I will note that the biggest reason why older games are not available would be rights issues. In cases where there are rights issues due to legal reasons, it is understandable that games are no longer available. As a critic, it makes me sad, but I can understand it.

I picked up both of these books at the same time from OneBookShelf. The preview image is a picture I took of the Star Frontiers book. I got them in softcover because writing about role-playing games doesn't pay that well. I tend to prefer getting my POD books in softcover anyway because I find that I have few issues with their binding over time. Living in Florida you have to take the fact that most of the time we have ridiculously high humidity into consideration with your book purchasing. As you'll see in the picture comparing the thickness of the POD Rules Cyclopedia to the one that I bought back in the day, you're going to start getting some curling regardless of how well you take care of things.

The physical stats of these books are pretty good. Both of these books used the Standard Heavyweight paper, so the paper had a good heft to it. Because of this, the POD version of the Rules Cyclopedia is actually thicker than the original book that I bought when it was initially released (and I have been lucky that the binding issues that plagued a lot of people with the original edition were spared from my copy). The Star Frontiers book is black and white, with full color maps and scans of the original chits from the boxed set in the back of the book. The Rules Cyclopedia is two color, black and green. The leafy page element at the bottom of each page has green in it, and the tables use green for its shading. The maps in the back of the Rules Cyclopedia are also full color. If you want table usable versions of the big map and chits from Star Frontiers, I would really suggest getting the PDF and taking it someplace where those pages can be printed on cardstock (for the chits) or a large format printer (for the maps).


Really, the main benefit to having these books available in print again, via POD, is so that they can be experienced by newer or younger gamers who hear about these older editions, but can't find them because they are out of print or go for extravagant prices on places like eBay. I think that it is always as good of an idea to know where gaming has come from as it is to know where it might be going.

This will probably be an unpopular opinion, but I wish that Star Frontiers had been available in book form previously. It takes up a lot less room than my older boxed set, and is easier to protect.

Of the two books, the print quality of Star Frontiers is the better of them. But, this is probably down to a scanning issue. Star Frontiers was a set of black & white booklets with nothing but text and line art to scan. The scanning of the Rules Cyclopedia had more screens and gradients to deal with, which would make scanning more complicated. The Rules Cyclopedia is still readable, but the printing in Star Frontiers is crisper in both the POD book and the PDFs that are up on the site. Some pages of the Rules Cyclopedia are better than others (the less complex pages were an easier scan I would imagine than the pages that were table heavy).


The covers of the two books are laid out differently than the originals, more so with the Star Frontiers book than the Rules Cyclopedia. The logo for the Star Frontiers book prominently features "The Original" atop it. The cover layouts for both books seem to have been designed with an eye towards salability. Hopefully this means that OneBookShelf will get into selling their wares at conventions. I remember RPGNow having a booth at Origins years ago offering up POD versions of a few of their more popular PDF offerings of the time (perhaps the only time some of these were offered in print).

Would I have picked these up if I hadn't had wanted to write about them here at EN World? Most definitely. I already have a friend who wants me to run a game of Star Frontiers now that I have this book. I might end up taking him up on that. I will definitely default to using my new POD version of the Rules Cyclopedia, and not press my luck that the binding on my originally might finally implode. I haven't run a game using the Rules Cyclopedia in a long time, but it is one of my favorite versions of Dungeons & Dragons (even if it doesn't have any devils and demons in it), and it would be the retro version that I would be most likely to run now. The nice thing about having this book available in print, and why I would like to see the compilation edition of the Basic and Expert books for Dungeons & Dragons compiled by Tom Moldvay, is so that I can use the actual games with people who have never played them before, rather than someone else's interpretation of those books via retroclones. The early editions of D&D have their own warts that should be experienced, rather than the smoothed over versions of them reconstructed through open content and the OGL. The rise of POD and PDF publishing in gaming makes this possible, even if it makes the producers of retroclones obsolete.

With Steve Jackson Games getting the rights back to The Fantasy Trip, I hope that we will see the classic game available again in PDF form. Knowing the history and how a game has developed over time helps to better inform criticism of where the game is at in its current form. I would like to see the early editions of TSR's post-apocalyptic Gamma World released back into the world, just like Wizards of the Coast is doing with these PDF/POD releases, and like how they have started to do with the old Amazing Engine game line. The Moldvay Dungeons & Dragons B/X books in an official combined edition (like how they combined the materials of the Star Frontiers box into one book) would be nice, too. I would buy that, and I'm sure that I wouldn't be alone. The new Chaosium has slowly, but surely, been releasing PDFs of the old Runequest 2 books, and seeing some of these in POD would be great too.

There is a lot of role-playing's rich history that is ripe for rediscovery and reissuing. There are, admittedly a good number of stinkers among the early role-playing games, but I think that we can learn from the low points as well as the high points in game design.
 

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Not that I would hack up my book, just being cheeky. There's books I've had 30+ years, read multiple times with nary a spine-crack (I'm a little anal that way.)
 

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PDFs area great in many ways. I find that if they're for longer works I'd get a hard copy as well. I stare too long at computer screens all day, often pouring through several hundred page technical PDFs *groan* heh heh.
 

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