RPG Review: The Rogues Gallery
When I purchased the AD&D Players Handbook thinks changed. The Floating Disk spell was changed. Now it was "Tenser's Floating Disk". And this wasn't the only named spell - you got all sorts of spells from the wizard Bigby to allow the creation of grasping hands, crushing hands, clenched fists, etc. There were spell immunity spells from Serten. It gave a glimpse of a game that was played by real people. Reading articles from The Best of Dragon Vol. 1 (which I encountered at a Brooklyn bookstore where I also purchased The Fellowship of the Ring) I got more glimpses of Gary Gygax's Greyhawk campaign. Though I was never able to find the Greyhawk folio which was advertised in the catalog that came with my copy of the D&D Basic Set - I finally acquired a copy a few weeks ago, though I did eventually get the expanded boxed set.
Before I managed to find the World Of Greyhawk boxed set I managed to get a copy of The Rogues Gallery. Looking back at the old TSR products it seems a lot of the earliest products were aids for Dungeon Masters - you had your Dungeon Geomorphs, Monster & Treasure Assortments, various types of record sheets, and products like The Rogues Gallery. Looking back I remember living in a world without easy access to photocopiers, printers, etc. There were no character sheets to download and print. With a supply of nickels you could make photocopies at the local library.
The Rogues Gallery was broken into sections. The first section was a list of characters (something like 50-100 per class, in table form) from all the classes in the Players Handbook, allowing a DM to quickly generate NPCs. In the middle were tools for generating sages, zero-level NPCs, NPC parties, merchant caravans, and more unusual monsters such as liches and ki-rin.
The final section is the section that is probably most memorable - it was a section of sample characters from various TSR campaigns. It had well-known characters such as Tenser, Bigby, and Robilar. They were presented in somewhat moderate incarnations - some of them were too low in level to cast some of the spells named for them or had ability scores too low to qualify to cast some of their iconic spells. It also had some less well-known characters such as the sinister Erac's Cousin and some characters who had been reincarnated as non-humans - a lizard man and centaur. Even more useful were the descriptions that accompanied the characters. You saw a fighter who used to be a ranger but couldn't handle the strict rules of the class. Characters who changed alignments, had odd motivations, etc. And their magic items were often customized - nothing approaching the power of an artifact, but rather non-standard versions of standard magic items with little variations from the standard rules.
How useful is this for gamers today? It depends on what you're looking for. If you are playing a retroclone that is extremely close to AD&D 1st edition (or 1st edition itself) then it does provide a utility which you might find useful. However I think its main use is its section of sample characters at the end of the book. The sample characters could be used as allies or villains for the PCs, they could serve as models or inspirations for NPCs, and offers some ideas for new magic items and possible adventure ideas. It's probably not something worth spending a lot of money for but