RPG Review: Ready Ref Sheets

As I've mentioned in the past, my first version of D&D (and first exposure to RPGs in general) was via the "Magenta Box" D&D Basic Set. Some of the early D&D books I picked up advertised the "Original Collector’s Edition" of Dungeons & Dragons but I never encountered such a version. I had hints of what it was like with my copy of Best of Dragon Volume I which I encountered in a book store in Brooklyn's King's Plaza mall.

I was also therefore unfamiliar with the Judges Guild licensed products. I recall an advertisement or two for the Mayfair Games version of City State of the Invincible Overlord but that's about it.

The reason for this prelude is for a large number of the older RPG products I've reviewed in this blog I acquired them in the period they came out. My first encounter with this product was via purchasing a digital copy at RPGNow a few years ago (unfortunately the scan at RPGNow is of petty poor copy and it appears to be unchanged - I've since acquired a physical version of it in reasonable condition).


The Ready Ref Sheets is pretty much just what it says on the tin - a ton of reference sheets for use with Dungeons & Dragons. Copyrighted 1978, this book therefore appears to have been released during the period that the Advanced D&D game was being rolled out but before it was completed. Its tables appear to be culled from a variety of Judges Guild products as well as tables from the Original Dungeons & Dragons products. My copy is staple bound but I get the impression that earlier versions were literally loose sheets.

Coming in with a page count of over 50, with lots of tables on each page, I'm not going to give a super-detailed review but rather some sampling and impressions.

First of all, a number of its tables are the types of things to be found in various early D&D products - tables for "Men Attacking" various armor classes, tables for the effectiveness of weapons vs. various armor types, saving throws, turning undead, etc. It also appears to have a table from the Chainmail miniatures game for a "Man to Man Melee Table", resolving combat by throwing two six-sided dice and consulting a weapon vs. armor table.There's a multi-page table of monsters, all crammed with statistics from a variety of TSR and Judges Guild sources. I'm a little amused by a page full of sharks and sea monsters - checking the copyright, I see the film Jaws came out prior to this. (Not saying there's a connection, but I'm gonna cling to the possibility of one.)

The bulk of the tables appear to not have sources from TSR books and magazines so I assume they come originally from Judges Guild. There's tons of encounter tables. The city encounters are often on the seedier side, with chances to meet prostitutes, slavers, and executioners. Going by these tables, 1 in 6 encounters with women are with a Vixen...

There's a lot of tables that appear to assume the City State of the Invincible Overlord, though nothing about them prevents their use for anywhere else. We've got tables for court cases and punishments.

I encountered a section on characteristic use, allowing for the possibility of attempting extraordinary tasks by rolling the stat as a percentage, with the use of a prime requisite allowing rerolls. Interestingly, I encountered something similar when I reviewed Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

There are tables that would clearly come in handy for higher level characters such as for stronghold building or necessary components for magic items. There are also guidelines for what to do about wishes and tables describing flora and fauna of various terrains and monster lairs.

Overall this is an interesting product - I am guessing it sold a lot of copies as of all the Judges Guild products, this seems to be one of the easier ones to acquire. It's interesting to think of gaming using these sheets - with D&D scattered across numerous books, I can see how such a product would come in handy. It reminds me of how spoiled I am that I can tell Adobe to search a PDF for some information I need for an encounter... Even today I can see where such a product could be handy, though a number of its functions can be subsumed by a spreadsheet or an app - for example when my group played Dungeon Crawl Classics we made use of a number of techie resources at or from Purple Sorcerer Games.

Comments

  1. Ready Ref Sheets was my first Dungeon Master's Guide with Holmes Basic D&D being my Player's Handbook. However, mine were not as complete (a "lite" version) on three to five sheets on yellow cardboard stock. Still, they kept us busy for years.

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  2. I have this puppy, and used it with my AD&D 1e world throughout high school. Great resource!

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  3. Thanks for the review, Daniel. Always good to see this underappreciated product discussed. I'm using it as inspiration for an expansion for Holmes Basic that I'm calling "Holmes Ref".

    I think you are spot on about the Jaws connection. I'd thought the same about the "weresharks" mentioned by Holmes in the Basic rulebook in 1977.

    Following your blog now.

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  4. The sea creatures encounter tables come form one of the advntures from Judgesguild that took place in an udersea wildreness just off coast of a city. Not too surprising really since the Blackmoor supplement was full of undwerwater stuff.

    The ready ref sheeets are a handy DMs tool I started using in the late 80's that I've employed in mmany campaigns and versions of the game.

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