Taking a break from work this weekend (will post a small blurb about how that went later tonight or tomorrow evening) and for this week's edition, I decided to talk about the new premium reprints of the AD&D books as well as a bit on 1st Edition in general. First off, let me say that I love what WOTC did with these reprints and, like most who were happy to see these, hope that they sell many, MANY copies. Perhaps, between that and the promised relative compatibility of the D&D Next (aka 5th Edition), WOTC will reverse their stance on availability of these older materials in PDF format at the very least. Besides, wouldn't owning a PDF of these cleaned up versions rock? They would certainly be a notch upwards as far as quality is concerned in the ones that were previously made available.
Of course, a lot of this is wishful thinking but it doesn't deter from a great job that was done to put these together. Flipping though the pages, which I did only briefly up to now (I picked them up yesterday afternoon), I couldn't help but smile. When I got into the hobby my first books were the 2nd Edition books. They had *just* come out and, up to that point, the small amount of D&D my friends and I played was thanks to the material found in the Mentzer box sets. It actually wasn't until a year or so later that I had a chance to look through some of the 1st Edition rulebooks. There was something almost mysterious and awesome about the material in those 1st Edition Rulebooks -- particularly the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Player's Handbook. Let's face it, the 2nd Edition DMG sucks in comparison to the 1st Edition one. It would still be quite a few years before I got copies of the 1st Edition rulebooks. Other 1st Edition titles already graced my collection, be it Legends & Lore, the Manual of the Planes, the Wilderness and Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, and so on. The PHB, DMG, UA, and various Monster Books didn't find their way onto my shelves for almost another decade.
Why did it take so long? Well, like most significant relationships, they can be complicated at times. ;)
Due to where I lived, RPG material of any kind was harder to come by until the mid-90's. When it was more accessible, TSR's change in focus for their various lines caused me to grow very weary of the material they were putting out. It took TSR to be bought out and 3rd Edition to get me interested again which was also the time I chanced to find a set of these older books in a second hand bookstore. These older classics now in hand, going through those pages were just as wondrous then as they were the first time and, unlike the 2nd Edition books, I didn't merely consult the manuals for rules but I also enjoyed reading many a passage in those books.
Now, with these beautiful reprints in hand, I can shelve them next to my worn but still solid original 1st Edition copies which I admit will remain my 'play copies' even if AD&D is not the game I presently play. In any event, these reprints represent and solidify a notion (at least to me) that these are Source Reference Manuals. So many games and versions derive from this books that it is only right to finally see these reprinted.
As a side note, I equally find it fascinating to hear about the arduous process that went into putting these reprints together. There was no digital file that could be loaded up in a word processor. There were no images digitally stored and untouched. All they had to go on I figure were physical copies and the unimpressive scans of a quality some of us may already be familiar with. These had to be reconstructed from scratch as opposed to just loading up a file in InDesign or whatever layout programs they use. It kind of reminds me of the manuscripts of old ... specifically the illuminated manuscripts and various grimoires of the middle ages which were transcribed meticulously by hand.
Kind of cool when you think about it...
These reprints consisting of the DMG, PHB, and MM aren't cheap but they are very reasonably priced given what prices are like these days. The PHB and MM are $39.95 each and the DMG being a bigger books is $44.95 each. For some odd reason, there is a larger price discrepancy that what I would consider acceptable for Canadian prices being 6 to 7 dollars more than the US cover price. Sorry WOTC, this is one part where you've failed. The good news is that some places are sticking with the US pricing. Of course, while most people who may really like the idea of the books may already have a set, the nice thing about these books is that part of the proceeds are going to support the Gygax Memorial Fund. So on that count, it's kind of classy even if it's just a marketing ploy and an attempt to give the Old School community and olive branch of sorts.