I noticed today differences in two Stormbringer 4ths in front of me. The book is copyrighted 1990, and was replaced by the Elric RPG in 1993.

This has always been a frustrating book for me, because used copies so often show up without the folded map in the back.

Now I think I know why.

There are (at least) two distinct printings. The original, in 1990 of course, and a later printing. As you can see in the pictures, the differences are subtle. The front cover graphics are identical, but a color shift is evident. The cover of the newer printing is more textured.

The back cover, too, is mostly the same. The UPC barcode of the later printing is a more modern format, and the MSRP is higher: The 52195 indicates a $21.95 suggested retail price, increasing from the earlier $19.95.

Otherwise the only other change is the “Features” box. This is significant, as the “eight full-color plates” line has been omitted from the new printing. And they are indeed not present in the newer book.

The map is not present either. Now, this is a used book I have here, and I may be wrong on this point. But the newer printing is lacking the attachment stub for the map that is present inside back cover of the 1990 printing.

Inside – other than the missing color plates – there is no significant difference. There is no updated printing info or date. Luckily, there was an order card in the newer book dated 01/01/92.

So in late 1991, Chaosium decided to cut costs when 4th edition went back for another print run. Without the color plates and map, the 1992 print is less desirable.

I’m confident in the late ’91 print date. The Chaosium 01/01/92 order form attached inside the front cover confirms that. So it’s not a POD. Just Chaosium of the early ’90s quietly trimming costs by deleting color pages and posters.
Edit: And raising the MSRP! Charging more for less, that’s funny. I wonder if anybody noticed it at the time.

Book on right, I bought from Bryan Steward.

Elric / Stormbringer in the shop.

Elric / Stormbringer RPG Reference page.

Guy Fullerton directed me to this article about the same topic.