I accept your apology, Colin McComb. I was one of those DMs who kept getting hassled by his players to include the overpowered stuff in The Complete Book of Elves. But I was also one of those DMs who'd say "no" to his players. Everytime a player said, "Can my character be a Bladesinger?" I'd say "no."
Besides, Mr. McComb, it all worked out for the better. You went on to create other cool products for TSR like Hellbound: The Bloodwar. And because of my players repeated putting The Complete Book of Elves in my face, I got rid of elves in my homebrew campaign, Domikka, and haven't missed them since.
Art by Terry Dykstra,
from the Complete Book of Elves
So was The Complete Book of Elves really that bad? Yes and no.
About half of the book covers how roleplay an elf. McComb addresses the elven stereotypes of being merry and yet aloof. Many elves, except for dark elves, are both. Yet they are less apt to be merry around other races, of even fearful, developing an almost Vulcan-like rationality so they don't appear weak.
Elven marriage and sexuality, yearly holidays and celebrations, and myths and legends are also covered.
McComb even describes even how elves behave in different campaign settings. There's a lot of interesting stuff in here, like the elven racial "Family Trees." One shows how high, grey, dark, sylvan, and aquatic elves came to be across the history of the planes and in different campaign settings. You learn more about how Lolth convinced the more "martial" of the elves to split with their brethren.
So, if you looking for a book on how to roleplay an elf beyond "the human in a funny hat syndrome," you can do worse than consult The Complete Book of Elves. My only qualm about the book from the roleplaying stand point is that doesn't have a table of elven names. But then again, you can just find an obscure name from Tolkien and use that.
The problem is, McComb made elves even more powerful than their standard D&D/AD&D counterparts. They are more resistant to heat and cold, suffering no ill effects from temperatures between 32 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit, even if fully encumbered.
On of the more controversial abilities is the Bladesong. For expending 3 proficiency slots, a character can have +2 to AC, +2 to Hit, or get a free parry each round. Well, now that's not so bad, right? This is in addition to the normal +1 to hit with a longsword, the elven weapon of choice.
Now enter the Bladesinger, the fighter/mage kit. Bladesingers can cast spells one-handed, while in studded leather or elven chain armor, and can even parry melee attacks while they're casting the spell:
"Their defense is equal to their level divided by 2, plus 1. All fractions are rounded down. Thus, a 6th-level Bladesinger gains +4 to AC (6th level/2 = 3 + 1 = 4)." So, an AC 7 (studded leather, not including any other benefits), becomes an AC 3 (platemail). Yeah, and they also get blindfighting for free. Why bother playing a human wizard? Heck, why bother playing a human at all?
(Also, I've never been able to discern what McComb meant by "Bladesinger Level." Aren't Bladesingers fighter/mages, having to split their experience points between each?)
In those days, I wasn't too concerned about balance. I usually let players use stuff from the spatbooks. In fact, I encouraged it because I wanted the material to be used. I wasn't too concerned about balance, but The Complete Book of Elves made me take a closer look at what might be brought to the table. While Bladesingers could only specialize in a single weapon (probably the longsword), they could still use other weapons, although with a -1 to hit, I still don't think this compensates for their Bladesong powers. Because, not only are they fighter/mages, they are better.
Yet I do accept Colin McComb's apology (even though it comes 20 years late). He was 22 when he wrote The Complete Book of Elves struggling, like so many game designers before him, to balance elven literary awesomeness with game mechanics.
I recommend using this book if you want to run an all elven campaign. Leave out the kits and other special things you might consider broken if your running a mixed group.