I absolutely love these! While they aren't in any way required to get a complete view of the setting, the collection of props, "hand drawn" style maps, blank journal pages and other goodies they included are wonderful for setting the mood of the gaming session. I don't know if they were ever released as PDFs from RPGNow or Paizo store, but I plan to scan a bunch of the stuff in mine so I can customize them a little bit to remove any references to AD&D rules, and print out the pages as needed.
Other products from AD&D, like the Deck of Priest Spells, Deck of Wizard Spells, Deck of Magic Items, the different Class Player Packs, etc. have a similar value to me for their use as at the table props and mood-setters. None of it's required to play the game, but these are the kind of things I'd like to see more of from publishers.
Like I said earlier in regard to scanning and printing, a lot of this kind of thing can be done much more easily and less costly with PDF distribution, since the majority of the product is just "forms" and "handout" pages. Any OSR publishers listening?
I love minis too, but mine honestly end up decorating the bookshelf and desk more than they see use in play. While minis and some of the really amazing scenery pieces you can get now do help visualize combat, Classic D&D combat isn't that technical anyway, and sometimes I feel like minis slow things down and turn the focus of play away from narrative and story and back toward actual game play, if you know what I mean.
How do you guys feel about fluff/prop products like these?