Trivia & Anecdotes: TSR Jam 1999

(Trivia & Anecdotes is a series of blog posts I’ve been meaning to make for years now about weird and sometimes funny behind-the-scenes facts about various books I worked on.)

(I apologize in advance for this entry because there’s nothing particularly weird or funny about it [except perhaps the cover, see the third footnote], but I’m including it for the sake of completeness and doing these chronologically by the order in which they were published.)

TSR Jam Cover

In 1998/1999, the RPGA had this thing called the Adventurer’s Guild program, where for certain books from TSR, they’d have a designer write a 16-page adventure related to that book*, then send that adventure to certain game stores (who paid for access to this exclusive content over the course of the year), and the store was supposed to have people run (not sell) the adventure in the store to generate interest and sales for the associated book. These adventures had very low production values: no art, only one B&W map, and they were basically photocopied and stapled together. Only a limited number were made, and they’re very hard to find now.**

The creative directors at TSR decided to take some of those adventures (whether they were the “best,” the ones they got the most feedback about, or merely their personal favorites, I don’t know) and compile them into an actual for-normal-publication book, which became TSR Jam 1999.

Anyway, I had written the adventurer’s guild tie-in adventure to Bruce Cordell’s Monstrous Arcana: Illithiad (a sourcebook about mind flayers). My adventure, called Blood Feud, featured the PCs being hired by a group of githzerai to help take on a group of mind flayers. It featured new stuff from The Illithiad, such as new mind powers, magic items, and factions of the mind flayers. Blood Feud was one of the adventures picked up for TSR Jam 1999. The other adventures in it are:

  • Vale of the Dragon Oracle (Forgotten Realm) by Bryon Wischstadt
  • The Return of the Pick-Axe (Greyhawk) by Christopher McKitterick
  • The Manxome Foe (Planescape) by Christopher Perkins
  • The Heart’s Final Beat (Ravenloft) by John W. Mangrum
  • Leviathan’s Deep (Dragonlance: Fifth Age) by Steven “Stan!” Brown
  • Folds in the Tapestry (Alternity) by Jeff Quick

You probably recognize several of those author names. :)

Writing Blood Feud was cool for me because I got to see Bruce’s text for Monstrous Arcana: Illithiad before it was in print, and got to do some writing based on the stuff he had created for mind flayers. It also technically was the first time I got to write anything for the core D&D line (instead of a world-specific project).

When they decided to reprint Blood Feud in TSR Jam 1999, that was also pretty cool for me because it would actually get some interior art done. The cover art was going to be by Todd Lockwood (who also did the cover on my first book, Children of the Night: Ghosts). Todd’s cover shows one relevant character from each of the settings used in the book: Mordenkainen*** for Greyhawk, a tiefling for Planescape, Elminster for Forgotten Realms, Raistlin for Dragonlance, a space mercenary for Alternity (TSR’s sci-fi RPG), and Strahd for Ravenloft.

Based on the title and my vague recollection of that time, the idea at the time was they’d continue to do one of these TSR Jam books each year, but apparently they changed their mind because there never was a TSR Jam 2000… probably because 2000 is when we launched 3rd Edition D&D, and the d20 SRD meant that Wizards of the Coast could start its plan of phasing out doing short adventures (leaving small adventures to third-party d20 publishers, who could do them profitably).

—–

* For example, I wrote one Adventurer’s Guild adventure called Of Varsks and Winter Witches as a tie-in to the Birthright setting book Tribes of the Heartless Wastes. I also wrote Cult of the Swamp Lord as a tie in to the hardcover reprint of Isle of Wyrms, and Crossbows and Crossbones as a tie in to my own Greyhawk adventure Slavers (which I’ll discuss in the next Trivia and Anecdotes blog).

** Case in point, about once a year I get someone who emails me for a print or Word copy of Of Varsks and Winter Witches because it’s all they need to complete their Birthright collection. Unfortunately, I had a major computer crash when I was living in New York, and my files for that adventure (and many other things) were unrecoverable.

*** Many people see that Todd’s depiction of Mordenkainen is bald with a goatee, and wonder if I was the model or inspiration for that character’s look, either here or on the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer. Answer: No, but I was the model or inspiration for some other characters he’s painted, which I’ll mention in future blogs. Lockwood says Mordenkainen is based on illustrator Fred Fields, a WotC temp as the tiefling, cartographer Dennis Kauth as Elminster, Lockwood himself as Raistlin, artist Sam Wood as the space trooper, and head cartographer Rob Lazaretti as the vampire Strahd.

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