Monday, July 23, 2012

To AD&D or not AD&D?

These were released last Tuesday. I haven't acquired them yet, and I'm not entirely sure I will. When I finished my Pathfinder campaign earlier this spring, I was left feeling dissatisfied. I don't think it was because I put together a bad game, or that it didn't turn out the way I wanted. Rather, the amount of work necessary to bring my ideas to fruition was far too overwhelming. Immediately after the campaign ended, I began looking at other systems.

This is when I learned that Wizards of the Coast was reprinting the first edition books. I've never played first edition, or any of the numerous OSR games, for that matter but I knew I wanted a simpler game. It just so happens that Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG showed up on my radar at exactly the same time. If you have read my blog with any consistency these last few months, you know that this has become the preferred system in my gaming groups.

So why am I hesitant about these reprints?

First, If I'm going to purchase a new game system, it needs to do one of two things: make it easier to craft the stories I want to tell or offer a completely different experience. I'm not sure AD&D does either of these things.I suppose I would need to see the rules before I make this claim, but I've been playing some version of this game for twelve years now.

The other reason is the barrier to entry; these books are expensive! Both the Player's Handbook and the Monsterr Manual are barely over 100 pages and clock in at $35 each. The Dungeon Master's Guide is more substantial, but it's also $10 more. I know these are supposed to be collector's editions, but it's my understanding that the only differences between these and the originals is the cover art and the gold-lined, gilded page edges.

It's too hard to resist the temptation to compare them to other games on the market. The Pathfinder core book, which is 500+ full color pages is only a hair more expensive than the DMG. DCC RPG, which includes an entire game system, is only $40. The Burning Wheel core book is over 600 pages and only costs $25. I could go on.

However, despite all of the practical reasons I have to convince myself to pass on these reprints, I am genuinely curious about the game's roots. Not $120 curious, but it just so happens that you can find copies of the originals in decent enough shape for about half that price.


  1. I bought the 3 books as a set at my local gaming store in Toronto for $107. (Hairy T in Toronto usually has gaming books on sale for 20% off.) I think ordering via Amazon you could have got the sets for much less, but they are sold out now. The books are really nice. Wizard's looks to have gone to a lot of trouble to ensure the reprints are a good reproduction of the originals. (The old books were created before digital typesetting, so it sounds like they had to do a lot of stuff from scratch / by hand, so to speak.) I never owned any of the original AD&D rules, so I was interested in buying them. The three books are essentially Gary Gyax's magnum opus on table top gaming. The Dungeon Master Guide is full of stuff you can steal and learn from.

  2. Amazon still has the PHB priced at $29 and change. That's less than a 20% discount. I've found complete sets on eBay in the realm of $90. Still, that's a lot of money for a game I'm not entirely sure I'll get to play.

    I am very tempted to just snag the DMG though, as I've heard it's one of the best ever written.

  3. If you're looking for something different, and the complexity of Pathfinder left a bad taste, I would go DCCRPG. The magic system is a bit complex, but overall it a masterful blending of old school aesthetic with new school mechanics.

  4. If you didn't live through AD&D the first time, there's not much point in buying the repros. Getting used copies (even the crappy orange spine versions) is the way to go. If you are interested in the game's roots, you should just download OD&D and the FFC.

    1. Why are the ones with orange spines crappy? I know it's sacrosanct to say, but their covers are far superior, in my opinion. Is it just the binding that is not as good?

      I snagged the DMG off eBay for about $15 yesterday with the orange spine. I'm currently shopping for PHBs with orange spines, but having some difficulty locating a cheap MM.

    2. Yes, the binding is the main thing. Although all the really bad AD&D books (dungeon survival, MM2, Unearthed Arcana, etc) have orange spines so maybe it's guilt by association.