[REVIEW] Louis Ginzberg's _The Legends of the Jews_

By neel@cswv.com (Neel Krishnaswami) ()


Title: _The Legends of the Jews_
Author: Louis Ginzberg, translated by Henrietta Szold
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Price: $15.95 (per volume, before any discounts)
ISBN: 0801858909

Short description: The stories from the Jewish midrash, collected together.

Quick take: Buy this NOW.

Full Review:

Some of the most useful things in bringing a game world to life are small details. Dropping a few names, making small references to things outside the immediate plot, these have a disproportionate impact on convincing the players (and the GM!) that the game world is a living, breathing place. For In Nomine, there's also the added method of making references to Biblical myths and legends. This lets you tie your gameworld to the vast body of myth accumulated over the past four millenia, and can a give a game a charge that's hard to top.

So the best way to do this is to kill two birds with one stone -- drop little bits of biblical myth and legend into your game. Mention casually that Gabriel and Michael defeated Azazel and Shemhazzai in pre-Flood days, or that the Far Marches are an unfinished quarter of the universe, left undone by God as a challenge to any false gods pretending to the status of creator.

Cool, you say, but there's not much chance of learning Hebrew and going through the midrash for game ideas. This is where Louis Ginzberg and _The Legends of the Jews_ comes in. Between 1908 and 1950 or so, the Jewish scholar Louis Ginzberg went through the midrash (commentaries on the Hebrew bible), and collected all the myths and stories in them.

This makes things significantly more accessible to laymen like us, and even better, all the boring exegesis and theology has been removed, leaving hundreds of pages of myths and legends ready for insertion into your game.

This is really good stuff, and really affordable. Even if you don't want to shell out a dozen bucks for 400 pages of esoteric goodness, go to your library and check it out -- these books are a standard reference, and odds are you can find a copy in the library.

The first volume is _From the Creation to Jacob_, and covers exactly what it says it does. The next 3 cover the rest of the Hebrew bible, and the last three volumes are references and indexes, which are of less interest to a gamer.

-- Neel Krishnaswami neelk@cswv.com


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