I recently scored a very nice copy of PC2 Creature Crucible: Top Ballista by Carl Sargent. This book came out in 1989 just as AD&D 2nd Edition was hitting the racks.
Top Ballista is a resource book for the D&D line ("basic" or BECMI), not AD&D. I got started with the BECMI red box in 1984 and played with a mix of that + B/X + AD&D materials. To me it was all just D&D, though I vaguely recognized that the two lines were slightly different.
I remember seeing Top Ballista on the shelf of the local book store. It was shrink-wrapped so I couldn't flip through it. I saw a plane on the cover and some whacky looking goblins. There was a sort of quasi-military vibe to it...and even though Iron Maiden's "Aces High" was probably going through my head I just didn't feel like it was a justified purchase. "Meh." I may have said.
Boy was I wrong. This book is awesome. It is full of awesome.
First, it is a module complete with disconnected cover and maps. It includes a large poster map of the flying city of Serraine, the city of gnomes.
More importantly it is a source book for playing a bunch of cool new classes: faenare, gnomes, gremlins, harpies, nagpa, pegataurs, sphinxes, and tabi. Remember, in classic D&D race and class are the same thing. That seemed perfectly natural to me when I was gaming on my own with my red box and blue BX Expert books. But once I hooked up with a proper group of hooligans playing AD&D I suddenly wanted race and class separated. Makes more sense right?
Balls to that. Race-as-class is awesome. The degree of color and style you can put into a class based on a race far surpasses the separated races of AD&D. I mean...gremlins.
Gremlins are friggin' great. They get to hide in crannies. They get a Murphy's Law aura. They can tumble and jump and cast natural spells. And perhaps coolest of all is their "foe fumbles". When an enemy attacks a gremlin and misses they must make a second attack roll...against themselves! And as the gremlin levels up there is a bonus to that second attack roll.
Ah, the chaos.
The other classes look cool too. I'd play a gnome any day. And there is the possibility with some classes of playing a spellcasting version like a shaman. That essentially means some race-classes are actually two different classes, broadening the possibilities even more.
Add to all this the wonderful artwork by John Lakey and this book is 100% cool. It has gnomish airplanes for pete's sake.
Now I have to score the other Creature Crucible books, which I have never had the pleasure of even seeing in person: PC1: Tall Tales of the Wee Folk, PC3: The Sea People, and PC4: Night Howlers.