Have I stumbled upon an old TSR joke?
I love second-hand bookshops. Even though I need to replace many of my dead-tree books with digital ones, I cannot resist an interesting title in a second-hand bookshop. I also love a bargain, and these two principles combine in the musty aisles of a good bookshop.
A recent purchase was Spellfire, by Ed Greenwood. This Forgotten Realms book was published by TSR in 1988. It tells the story of Shandril Shessair, a kitchen servant who suddenly finds herself able to wield spellfire.
Of course, many of your may recognise Spellfire as the CCG released by TSR in 1994. The 1970s volume of the excellent Designers & Dragons, by Shannon Appelcline, cites Spellfire as TSR’s answer to Magic: the Gathering. Shannon notes how Spellfire was initially successful, but failed to save the aged TSR.
What is in a name?
I have no proof, but it is interesting to think that the name of the CCG came from the spellfire described in the novel of the same name. If this guess is true, then it suggests a sense of humour at TSR. Or, a steely determination.
The power of spellfire is drawn from destroying spells or enchanted items. Yes, it takes its power from destroying magic. I find it hard to believe this was just coincidence. In D&D terms, spellfire is more powerful than arcane magic. Doubtless many at TSR hoped this principle would apply to their CCG too.
Ironically, in the novel, Shandril first uses her spellfire to defeat Rauglothgor, an undead dragon, or dracolich. Meanwhile TSR, the creator of the RPG hobby, was creaking under mounting financial pressure. This mighty dragon of the industry was bought in 1997 by Wizards of the Coast, publishers of Magic.
So maybe magic was more powerful than spellfire after all.