Thursday, 26 July 2012

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Premium Reprints

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons "reprints"?

No, really, you didn't know? ;)

In the words of Dr Seuss "Old Hat, New Hat" ;) 
AD&D 1st Edition Premium reprints of the Players Handbook,
Monster Manual and  the entertainingly eclectic Dungeon Master's Guide
-published by Wizards of the Coast for the Gygax Memorial Fund
-available online and in select shops-

They reprinted them - no, the originals - I don't know if they've started reprinting the reprints because that would make them re-reprints, which would just be stoopid.  I mean why would you reprint a reprint?

...But there was a delay, which sometimes implies a recount"Heebee Jeebies, we've got all of these pre-orders. Hasn't anyone heard that they sell copies on Ebay?!  Print more, print more! They won't be ready for May, move it to July!"
The money goes to a fund with "Gygax" in the title so it must be kosher.  This also this allows Wizards' to step back a little, dissociate from earlier brand and perhaps tell themselves "it's just a special fund raiser, not to be compared to today's state-of-the-art DnD4 or D&D Next"

("D&D Next" always makes me think of the Spice Girls).

Of course, these books are useless without Unearthed Arcana, Monster Manual 2 and Fiend Folio.

What am I saying!? I'm just kidding!  It's a complete game in three books.  -None of this "1974 Original D&D" plus "Chainmail" plus supplements business... It's the late 70's and TSR has decided that serious players need heavy hardbacks.  What's confusing me is that Wizards definitely infer that this is the "original" D&D - or am I reading between the lines?
In 1974, the world changed forever when Gary Gygax introduced the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game. The legacy of his innovative ideas and the extensive reach of his powerful influence can be seen in virtually every facet of gaming today.
To help honor his work and his memory, we created limited-edition reprints of the original 1st Edition core rulebooks: the Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, and Dungeon Master's Guide.
...Quoth the coastal mages.

The Monster Manual was not published until 1977, but hey what's a different edition between friends?   (Shush, don't mention The Edition War) Anyhow. I was in that slightly later generation who owned the copies with the orange spines.  In fact, I held off buying Fiend Folio for an aeon because I hoped that they would make the cover to match.  Never happened.  I'm very fond of Fiend Folio's older style cover now, but you can't beat a set of matching spines.  (I may just have to add some pictures here sometime)

Funnily enough, when I was playing D&D (D&D Basic), there was a perception held amongst myself, friends and readers of White Dwarf and Imagine that because Advanced D&D didn't come in a box that it was somehow more "grown-up".  Grown-ups clearly knew where to buy the funny dice which were not included as standard.  Toys and boardgames were bought in boxes, but academics and dads read "reference" books. :)

Flashback (skip if bored):
I was fairly overwhelmed by my switch as a B/X DM to AD&D.  I understood that the players liked AD&D for the extra class and race choices (a friend would boast to me about a half-elf druid in another DM's campaign - heretical upstart!  Human Clerics were good enough for the rest of us...), but some of the rules for DM were very strange.  One that sticks out was the different armour class for helmets and the fact that those weapons vs armour class table seemed difficult to apply to all but humans and demi-humans (and that the Monster Manual was often vague about what humanoids wear and whether or not a DM should adjust the AC for dexterity).  Damage vs. size didn't make much sense to me at the time either.   Then I discovered that DM friends had audacity to play AD&D as though it was Basic/Expert.  They picked and mixed the rules as they liked.  I was less confident that way.  Also, what I hadn't realised was that AD&D was not a continuation of Basic -not in terms of the levelling-up boxed sets - but as a general "step-up" for players.  I genuinely thought that the D&D mentioned in the foreword was the same D&D that I had been playing.  Nope, he meant "Original" D&D, -not Holmes, Moldvay-Cook or Mentzer - Mr GG was going right back to his original game.  He had rebuilt the game, rebalanced, re-categorised and "re-owned" rules from the supplements.  the AD&D DMG was respectably "definitive" - but with specialist appendices.  Compared with the small white, boxed sets, and pamphlet rules, it might have looked like the Encyclopaedia Britannica when it was first published.  It certainly had an aura of archaic wisdom for a select elite when I got my grubby paws on it. "Ooh, Advanced D&D - playing with the big boys now."

But I digress.  Suffice to say that I got over the fact that Armour Class 9 was now Armour Class 10, and that a normal sword was a "long sword" etc. 

What's great about AD&D at the time (mid-80s), when I was playing, was that it seemed to have been around forever and would probably last a while longer too.  And, boy, did we argue later about adopting the new Unearthed Arcana rules ...(that plus Oriental Adventures and ... oh, well you get the idea).  It became a type of game-comparison short-hand to add whether or not you allowed those logical new-fangled arrangements as class and race.  "yeah, we play AD&D every Saturday, but we don't use the Unearthed Arcana rules"  I still can't think of Acrobats without imagining the character from the cartoon.  (Don't mention the cartoon.  It was bad enough arguing with friends' Christian parents about the merits of role-playing vs. the occult, without that damnable cartoon making people think it was a bloody fair ride and that a Dungeon Master was a sort of ingenius-Yoda-gnome. But hey ... it's only been a few decades, and I'll get over it eventually... I'm making good progress, they say...)

I think I was trying to talk about the pros-and-cons of owning a piece of living history in a fresh wrapper in a post here, but frankly I've just tried to read some of it and managed to bore myself rotten (actually it's probably identical to what I have just typed - I edit nothing!).

Here's the original links over at Wizards, but there's no option to buy directly

If you don't know what the abbreviations stand for, you are not worthy of owning AD&D!

Okay, enough of the memories, what are the extras that Wizards' are offering us, which we couldn't already find on our bookshelves, attic or bid for on Ebay:
Tribute cover art, gilded edging, glossy pages and place-mark ribbon thing.
I'm sure that they don't smell like the originals, but at least they'll smell new.  As an ex-bookseller my partner is big on "new" - she won't touch most of the second-hand games I buy (she's still a bit confused of the fuss I made over buying the yellowing A5 booklet of the Tunnels & Trolls 4th edition rules).  

Shiny gold! All that glitters IS gold!
From The Other Side Blog
Mr Tim B. at The Other Side' has been posting some photographs other the Premium reprints -proving again that RPGs can be beautiful just as objects.

It does make you realise that the differences (between these and the originals), like the gilding and the ribbon, have been undersold.  The stores I've seen up to now only show a flat art graphic of the covers.*

(*Perhaps the cover art should have been exact copies of the originals - since the interior is a near-facsimile - but hey that's another debate which I'm sure has lit up a few threads on forums).
I'm very tempted to buy these books.  I've been looking around to see if they are available in many places in the UK.  There were some worries (just random posts I've seen) that people outside US wouldn't get to see the Premium Reprints. is just hopeless right at the moment with regards to these editions and I wouldn't trust half the links I'm seeing on Amazon (US).  So it looks like for now that they're mainly only in the specialist hobby shops.

I haven't been to a "bricks n mortar" store recently, but Leisure Games have responded to my queries that they stock them on the shelves as well as taking orders through their site:
AD&D 3-book bundle at Leisure Games (London) (add £7 for p+p in UK)

Spirit Games are selling through their site and I'm quietly confident they'll have them on the shelves:
Premium Edition Player's Handbook at Spirit Games (Burton-on-Trent)

Spirit Games had this to say about stock issues when I asked about availability of this product in the UK:
"We have one set of the AD&D reprints left, but current word is that restocks won't be a problem in the near future. With limited editions like this one, advance information about quantities is woolly at best - sometimes barely enough arrive to cover pre-orders, but this time a decent number came over. It's a bit of a nightmare for the UK distributors, having to guess how many to ask for with little idea of how many they will actually get."
And we're certainly not seeing the AD&D books in normal book stores - not locally anyhow. 

In comments on The Other Side Blog another poster confirmed that Esdevium Games were supplying the Premium editions to local gaming stores.   So I guess it's business as usual, I guess.  Man, I miss the days when Games Workshop used to sell imported RPGs.

I'm fond of Noble Knight for buying older RPGs, they've never had trouble shipping to the UK and since I'm an affiliate I feel I should at least post a link to their store. ;)
AD&D Premium Reprint Product Line at Noble Knight Games
If you're curious, Noble Knight also list AD&D 1st edition originals (TSR product line) - which can make a change from taking the random pick on the day on Ebay.

Australian customers can buy from
Milsim's Games
(link courtesy of Shane Harvey)

If I had to buy only one book and out these mighty three (assuming I didn't have access to the originals) I would buy the DMG, just because there's it's packed with character-full prose and reflective gaming advice directly from Mr Gygax himself.  If I were to buy one as a gift for a non-player (and why would I know this person?) it would probably be the Monster Manual - partly for the fact that it feels in many ways like a traditional C12th bestiary - with quaint imagery (to modern gamer eyes) and descriptive asides.  Naturally, the Player's Handbook would also make the perfect present ...

...Or...  just buy all three ...
- for yourself!

Forget all this "gift" business, because let's fact it, no-one appreciates AD&D (for a hundred reasons) more than you do.
And you deserve spare copies.  Lovely, new, shiny copies....

If WotC sell enough, you do realise that they will actually resurrect the original author? 

No, seriously, it's true.

I read it.  

... on the internet. 

Happy Shopping. :)


  1. Thought I recognized that picture!

    Yes, these books are very nice. I am tempted to get another set to be honest.

    1. Borrowing the picture had to be done! ;) Your photos answered a lot of questions I was having. Like I said, I'm surprised more hasn't been made of the high quality of the production value.