Last January I was working in Jackson and had some time to explore. I decided to punch up comic book stores on the old phonamajig and found a small store called Nostalgia Ink where, on top of their comic book collection, they had tons of TSR modules for first and second edition D&D modules. These ranged from individual dungeons and castle adventures to entire adventures complete with included miniatures and castles. Mind you, these miniatures and castles are made of paper and require glue, tape, and hours of cursing to assemble but they help to give an experience that I think is lacking in most games today.
With the advent of the internet and affordable personal computing devices, there has been a shift from traditional pen and paper games to using software, phones, and even digital dice. While this does help some players meet groups from around the world in online games, I think those groups that gather around the table should look to the old ways for the best table top experience. I still cherish my first character sheets which have been filled out, erased, and filled out again several times as I leveled up and enjoy still writing out my character sheets and tracking my hit points among a pile of eraser dust. Most importantly, even if you find a digital character sheet the better way to go, roll real dice. This has nothing to do with cheating or the problems with number generating apps, you need the suspense of the die rolling around the table, the wonder of all of the players seeing the natural 20 show up on the die or the despair at seeing the dreaded critical fail.
While DMs have been sharing their wonderful creations with each other, through either the new DM’s Guild or pinterest, there is a wealth of information still available through these old TSR modules. After my discovery of these old folios, we spent a good part of last year making our way through the tomb of horrors and white plume mountain and it gave me a sense of depth that my previous adventure did not have. I learned how to create detailed and large maps in place of the small two to three room dungeons I was working with before. More importantly, these old stories included wonderful villains and terrible organizations that could be revived in your campaign either as they were in their heyday or even as some undead abomination.
Really the point I’m trying to make here is that there is plenty of good and use left in these old tattered books. While it may not live up the standards of art that Wizards of the Coast currently puts out, I think there is something endearing about the old black and white drawings in the days when printing these things was extremely expensive. If you ever have the opportunity I would suggest picking one of these old books or boxes up, and if you happen to be in the Jackson area, check out Nostalgia Ink!