Friday, July 26, 2019

Buried Treasure (THE JADE HARE)

So, probably the rarest thing I have in my rpg collection, which has always been more of a working library than a collector's set, is a copy of THE JADE HARE, an eight-page module by John Nephew.  Unfortunately, my copy got mislaid a while back and I've been looking for it, unsuccessfully, for the past year or two. Last night I turned it up again, in a somewhat unexpected context.

I had picked a box to sort down in the Box Room because it was blocking me from getting to the bottom shelves of a bookcase. The box turned out mostly to be full of old TSR catalogues from the period 1989-1997,* but halfway down was a copy of HAIL THE HEROES, one of the Mystaran 'audio cd adventures' I worked on as editor. Since I hadn't looked at it in years, I pulled it out and quickly dipped into it. To my disappointment it turned out not to be the adventure I'd worked on but a sourcebox filled with miscellaneous junk: three apparently random BLOOD WAR cards, an AOL sign-up disk, flyers for rental cars, a credit card application, a Waldenbooks preferred members club, as well as an RPGA membership card and sow-on patch. It looked like somebody at some point re-purposed the box to stash a strange array of miscellaneous slush. But since I was near the bottom anyway I decided to press on rather than stuff all this stuff back in the box and put it on my MYSTARA shelf as a place holder till I found a better copy.

It's lucky that I did. The last three items turned out to be a folded-up PLANESCAPE poster, a pristine copy of  THE JADE HARE, and an issue of POLYHEDRON (#110, August 1995). Mission accomplished, after more than a year of looking.

There are actually two versions of this module, which are identical except that one has a cardstock cover (front and back) and the other lacks this.** It's the version with the cover that's the collectable one: the adventure within is identical in both. It's not known how many copies were ever released, but only about half a dozen are known to survive, of which this is one.

Two associated pieces of evidence also in this box might cast some light on this minimodule and the context in which I found it. The first is the draft of a memo that seems to be setting out what a person buying a membership in some group wd get in return: membership card, an introductory POLYHEDRON, some sort of exclusive LIVING CITY product, a sample issue of DRAGON or DUNGEON, a promotional SPELLFIRE or BLOOD WARS card, a poster, a catalogue for the Mail Order Hobby Shop (and discount therefrom), a membership car and patch, and finally a subscription to POLYHEDRON.

Now, this sounds rather like the miscellaneous array of things stuffed into that sourcebox, which were probably picked not as specific items for inclusion but as generic pieces that happened to be laying ready to hand to see how much room a similar 'wants list' wd take up.

A revised version of the memo, in the bottom of the box, helps solves one little mystery. I've never been able to remember who it was, which TSR executive, who gave Slade and myself the Games Library copy of this module (and one each for ourselves, to boot). I thought it was probably Tom Lavley but possibly Tom McLaughlin. The memo casts some light on this: it's from Scott Douglas, the head of the RPGA at the time, and addressed to Tom McLaughlin, Rick Behling, and Jim Ward. Since Tom McLaughlin is one of the recipients of the memo, this shows he was involved with issues such as special-release giveaways and makes it more likely that it was MaLaughlin who we have to thank for a handful of copies surviving.

And now to enjoy one more thing that had gotten out of place being back in place.

--John R.
current reading: various manga

*I was there myself from 1991 -1997, but was able to pick up a lot of the older catalogues when people who were leaving wd put out things they didn't want to take with them on the freebie shelf.

**this makes the two states of JADE HARE unlike the two versions of B3. PALACE OF THE SILVER PRINCESS, where not only was the background color of the covers changed from orange (B3 original) to green (B3 revised), but also the contents re-written (and much improved).

It's long been known that THE JADE HARE owes its existence from TSR's attempts at the time to monopolize titles and trademarks with the word 'Dragon' in them -- hence the module is a DUNGEONS & DRAGON(R) adventure and so labelled, while the cover (front and back) instead identifies this as a DRAGON MASTER(TM) adventure.

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